Police disperse 2,000 anti-dam protesters in western China

"Now all the roads are cleared," a 30-year-old woman from the county of Suijiang, in China’s southwest Yunnan province, told the Wall Street Journal. "There are military police patrolling the streets to avoid people gathering together." After five days of heated protests — which had drawn 2,000 people to the streets — a tense silence ...

Getty Images/AFP/Sina Weibo
Getty Images/AFP/Sina Weibo
Getty Images/AFP/Sina Weibo

"Now all the roads are cleared," a 30-year-old woman from the county of Suijiang, in China's southwest Yunnan province, told the Wall Street Journal. "There are military police patrolling the streets to avoid people gathering together." After five days of heated protests -- which had drawn 2,000 people to the streets -- a tense silence was being enforced. On Tuesday, 400 paramilitiary officers had descended on tiny Sujiang to disperse demonstrators.

The villagers had gathered to protest government plans to build a major hydropower station on the nearby Jinsha River. Approximately 60,000 people are slated to be relocated by the dam, but many villagers either don't qualify for government compensation -- or feel that the amount offered is far too low to replace their lost livelihoods. 

Over the next decade, expect many more dams to be built in China, as the country seeks to meet rapidly growing energy needs. As Peter Bosshard wrote recently in FP, China's National Energy Administration is likely to soon approve further hydropower projects totaling 140 gigawatts -- in comparison, he notes, "the United States has installed just 80 gigawatts of hydropower capacity in its entire history."

"Now all the roads are cleared," a 30-year-old woman from the county of Suijiang, in China’s southwest Yunnan province, told the Wall Street Journal. "There are military police patrolling the streets to avoid people gathering together." After five days of heated protests — which had drawn 2,000 people to the streets — a tense silence was being enforced. On Tuesday, 400 paramilitiary officers had descended on tiny Sujiang to disperse demonstrators.

The villagers had gathered to protest government plans to build a major hydropower station on the nearby Jinsha River. Approximately 60,000 people are slated to be relocated by the dam, but many villagers either don’t qualify for government compensation — or feel that the amount offered is far too low to replace their lost livelihoods. 

Over the next decade, expect many more dams to be built in China, as the country seeks to meet rapidly growing energy needs. As Peter Bosshard wrote recently in FP, China’s National Energy Administration is likely to soon approve further hydropower projects totaling 140 gigawatts — in comparison, he notes, "the United States has installed just 80 gigawatts of hydropower capacity in its entire history."

Protests over land seizures and low compensation are not uncommon in rural China. (More than 50,000 such "public disturbances" are counted by public security bureaus each year.) But the recent Sujiang demonstration attracted particular national attention, in part because snapshots (see above) of paramilitary forces arriving in armoured personnel carriers were distributed widely through Sina Weibo — a popular Twitter-like microblogging site that remains accessible in China, for now.

Christina Larson is an award-winning foreign correspondent and science journalist based in Beijing, and a former Foreign Policy editor. She has reported from nearly a dozen countries in Asia. Her features have appeared in the New York Times, Wired, Science, Scientific American, the Atlantic, and other publications. In 2016, she won the Overseas Press Club of America’s Morton Frank Award for international magazine writing. Twitter: @larsonchristina
Tag: China

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.