Police using tear gas to disperse protesting residents at Wenlou township (Photo credit: Radio Free Asia)

November 28 – December 1 and December 16 – 17, 2019
Location: Huazhou District, Maoming, Guangdong
Participants: Thousands

A crematorium plan triggered protests from residents in Wenlou, a township in Huazhou District, Maoming on November 28. Water cannons and tear gas were deployed to disperse the crowds. Residents, including children and elderly, were beaten by SWAT police armed with riot shields and batons. The district government halted the plan the day after the violent clashes.

Residents were uninformed of the crematorium plan prior to the protest. On November 15, the government posted a on its office website and only allowed 10 days for public comment. Billed as an ecology park, the blueprint concealed the construction of, among other facilities, a crematory, funeral home and cemeteries. The actual details were only released by the government on November 27. The following day, hundreds of residents from Wenlou took to the streets to express concerns over possible air and water pollution, the disruption of by the graves, and impact on the property prices. The clashes left many protesters injured. A government notice dated November 29 announced that the plan would be suspended for further public comment. Protests subsided on December 1 when Wenlou’s party secretary announced the decision to formally withdraw the plan

Two weeks later, violent clashes resurfaced in Boyang, another township in Huazhou less than 18 miles from Wenlou. Protests broke out near government buildings because of a rumor about the construction of a crematorium, as opposed to a water filtration facility which they had been previously told. On December 16, the Boyang government vowed not to build a crematorium. The Huazhou District government also dismissed the proposal as a rumor.

Maoming is no stranger to environmental protests. In early April 2014, thousands of people rallied against a proposed paraxylene plant. In the same month, a protest took place against a crematorium plan in another township in Huazhou. The proposals were shelved after violent clashes between the locals and police. In both incidents, there were widespread rumors that protesters had been killed by police.