Published: Monday 31 July 2000

The Guangdong provincial government have ordered the closure of Xing Ye Metal Accessories Corporation and eight other electroplating factories of the Guangzou district. The order came after a local newspaper reported that wastewater, containing cyanide in some cases, was being dumped into the North river. To some, the closure of the factories seems to offer a hopeful sign of China's new pollution-fighting resolve. People have frequently made allegations that local governments have ignored the problems for years and thus covered up industries flouting environmental laws.

Man Chi Sum, chief executive of Green Power, a Hong Kong-based environmental group, stated that local governments protect polluting industries, as these are main sources of revenues. Man, who has written about the interplay between environmental enforcement and local politics in Guangdong, said that sometimes, provincial and local authorities end up wrangling over which bureau has jurisdiction over which polluter.
Xing Ye's executives rejected the charges and claimed that the factory has lost us $5 million as it was not able to manufacture its doorknobs, locks and belt buckles. The company's chairperson, Liang Yuankai, said that their industrial zone has the best water purification equipment in the province. The only reason behind the closure of the factory is that they moved away from Foshan district to get cheaper land and electricity. Public attention has brought unwanted publicity to Guangdong's environmental protection bureau.

Environmental officials have not specified as to when the factories would be allowed to reopen. "We just want them to stop for a while until the inspection is finished and we decide what to do in a scientific manner," said Li Yihui, vice president of Guangdong's environmental bureau.

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