NIMBY Protests

A Timeline of NIMBY Protests

The phrase Not In My Back Yard, or NIMBY, has been in use since at least the 1980s in the West to refer to opposition by individuals to new developments in their neighbourhood for fear of pollution of one kind or another. The term is often pejoratively associated with self-interested resistance to projects that may be necessary for the public good. In China, both the foreign press and local activists tend to interpret NIMBY protests as signs of the emergence of a civil society. The government generally tolerates expressions of dissent if they are confined to a particular environmental issue. On the other hand, it usually, and rapidly, censors the dissemination of images and reportage via mobile phones and the Internet, as well as attempts to organise protests by these means.

Many of the NIMBY protests in China oppose the building of new petrochemical and plastics factories, with plants intended to produce paraxylene, or PX, used in paints and plastics a particular target. The following is a list of the most notable NIMBY protests in China since 2007. Even studying media reporting and Internet chatter about such protests, it is hard to know whether the objectionable projects have been cancelled, halted temporarily, moved elsewhere or simply hidden behind high walls.

June 2007
An anti-PX march occurs in Xiamen, Fujian province, against the planned construction of a toxic chemical plant in the city.

January 2008
Thousands of Shanghai residents protest against a proposed extension of the high-speed magnetic levitation ‘Maglev’ train.

May 2008
Hundreds of residents in Chengdu, Sichuan province, protest against an RMB5.5 billion ethylene plant under construction PetroChina.

August 2008
Beijing residents protest against the city’s biggest refuse dump site at Gao’antun, Chaoyang district outside the city’s Fifth Ring Road. They claim the dump is polluting the air with a foul stench and dangerous toxins. The dump continues to operate but the government has implemented measures to reduce the smell, including burial and chemical treatment.

November 2009
Hundreds of residents of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, protest against the planned construction of a waste incinerator, following rumours that a similar incinerator nearby was responsible for a cancer cluster. The protests force the authorities to postpone construction and eventually relocate the incinerator.

July 2010
More than 1,000 villagers march on the streets of Jingxi county, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to protest against the pollution caused by an aluminium plant.

August 2011
A chemical plant in Dalian, Liaoning province, is closed down after thousands of protesters confront riot police, demanding that the plant be shut due to safety concerns.

September 2011

Several hundred villagers in Haining, Zhejiang province, protest for four days, overturning cars and storming the compound of a photovoltaic manufacturer accused of releasing pollutants into a local river. Police break up the riot.

December 2011
Following the announcement of plans to expand a coal-fired power plant in Haimen, Guangdong province, tens of thousands of residents protest, barricade a freeway and surround government offices. Three days later, authorities announce that the planned expansion will be temporarily suspended.

Beijing residents protest against high-speed railway construction. Photo: Jim Xue

Beijing residents protest against high-speed railway construction.
Photo: Jim Xue

April 2012
Thousands of Tianjin residents demonstrate against a planned US$1.7 billion Sino–Saudi joint venture petrochemical plant.

July 2012
Protests in the city of Shifang, Sichuan province, result in the cancellation of a copper mine project.

NIMBY protesters wearing facemasks during a protest against a PX plant in Kunming. Source: China News Service

NIMBY protesters wearing facemasks during a protest against a PX plant in Kunming.
Source: China News Service

July 2012
Tens of thousands of people in Qidong, near Shanghai, protest against a proposed sewage pipeline at a paper factory. Plans for the pipeline are shelved.

October 2012
Thousands of residents of the city of Ningbo protest against a multi-billion yuan expansion of an oil refinery and chemical plant. After a few days, an official statement announces that the project will not go ahead.

October 2012
Thousands of residents in the coastal town of Yinggehai, Hainan province, demonstrate against plans to build a large power plant nearby. Dozens of people are injured when police crack down on the protests; the police detain more than one hundred protesters. This follows similar protests in January 2012 against plans to build a coal-fired power plant close to the town.

December 2012
Around 300 protesters stage a march in Beijing against plans to construct a portion of the Beijing–Baotou high-speed railway line through their neighbourhood on Qingnian Road in Chaoyang district. Media reports say that plans for the project have been put on hold but there have been no announcements about the railway line since then.

May 2013
Hundreds of people gather in Kunming, Yunnan province, to protest plans to build a PX plant in a nearby town.