For the past three days, residents of this City in Southwest Guangdong have been protesting against a planned PX plant:
After sunset, furious crowds gathered again in front of the government building and burned what they said was the mayor's car. People also set fire to a police car and the security stand near the gate of the government building.
Mr Dong said police dispersed protesters with tear gas and pepper spray. He said one man fell off his motorbike and died while being chased by police, and an entire floor of Maoming People's Hospital was taken up by people injured in the protests.
Over the last day or so, the protests have spread to Guangzhou, the provincial capital. Anti-PX protests are a distinct sub-genre of the mass incident, having taken place in recent years in Xiamen, Dalian and Kunming. The difference is that those protests were studiedly non-violent and generally conducted in a way aimed to get round censorship to rally wider popular support across China as a whole. Global Times gives us a clue to why things might have exploded in what is apparently known as the 'Oil City of the South'.
...some residents reached by the Global Times on Tuesday regard the response as a delaying tactic. Others claimed that a public approval letter, which urges support for the project, has been allegedly circulating in the city since Friday, with many workers and students forced to sign their approval...
"To maintain stability in Maoming, authorities must on the one hand listen to public opinions on the PX project itself. But more importantly, they should work to solve the anger among people, which would be hard with its poor credibility," Han noted, suggesting Maoming should cancel the project.
Han pointed out that Maoming is no longer suitable for a PX project due to its notorious management on pollution control of local enterprise and long-existing corruption issues, even though the city is known for its petrochemical industry.
So you have a notoriously corrupt and polluted oil boom town with presumably high ambient levels of public anger which tries to pre-empt peceful protest by forcing residents to sign a letter approving the project. Instead of that, they got a riot and related protests in the provincial capital. Bad 'social management' there.
This may be politically consequential because Guangdong is the current fiefdom of Hu Chunhua, 'little Hu', protege of Hu Jintao and the leading up and comer in the Party's Communist Youth League faction. Hu has something of a fondness for crackdowns, presumably becuse he thinks it reflects the current zeitgeist. But if he's held responsible for an ineffective bout of headbreaking that leads to several days of riots and protests outside his own government offices, it won't do his prospects much good, unless he chooses to make a public example of the Maoming city government. That may be why the protestors decided to take to the streets in Guangzhou.