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Chinese officials retreat on incinerator after protests

Local officials promised Sunday to suspend construction of a massive waste incinerator in eastern China after a violent demonstration by residents fearful of pollution left dozens injured.

BEIJING: Local officials promised Sunday to suspend construction of a massive waste incinerator in eastern China after a violent demonstration by residents fearful of pollution left dozens injured.

"Residents will be invited to give their opinion before the project is officially launched," the Yuhang district government in the city of Hangzhou said in a statement.

"The construction of the incinerator will stop... if we do not have the support of the population," it added.

Protesters clashed with hundreds of police at a rally in the city on Saturday, leaving at least 10 protesters and 29 policemen injured, state media reported.

More than 30 cars were overturned during the confrontation, with residents setting fire to two police vehicles and smashing up another four, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Plans for the waste complex were made public in April and local residents fear pollution from the plant could negatively impact their health, leading to the latest protests over poor environmental standards in China.

On Sunday the Yuhang government's promise was met with scepticism by protesters, who said they had little faith it would do anything more than delay the inevitable.

"We don't believe them. Our protest caught the attention of the central government, so they're under pressure at the local level to deal with the controversy fast to avoid punishment," a protester named Li told AFP.

The activist, who did not give his full name, said many of his fellow demonstrators had been beaten by police, but added he had not heard of any deaths.

Regardless, he vowed to pursue his opposition to the incinerator. "If the government resumes the project, we will continue to confront them," he said.

Hangzhou, built around the picturesque West Lake, is a major draw for tourists in China. But the city of nine million has seen its popularity decline in recent years due to air pollution, which also famously plagues the capital, Beijing.

Last month state media reported that Chinese police detained 18 people over large rallies opposing a chemical plant in Maoming in the southern province of Guangdong after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for days of protests.

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