Before China’s market reforms of ’78 and the consequent economic growth, Liukuaizhuang was a quiet, nondescript village 100 miles from Beijing. But the expansion was wholly unregulated and now there is a price to pay.
Liukuaizhuang is circled by dozens of chemical, paint and rubber factories, all built in the last 30 years. Every one of them has poisoned the air and water ceaselessly since the day it opened.
“They asked in the hospital whether my family had a history of cancer. I said: ‘No, in the last three generations no one had it’,” one villager told Reuters, while pointing to x-rays of his metastatic disease.
Local Communist Party official Huo Junwei legitimizes the concern. “The factories were not far from homes and to a certain degree influenced the normal life of the villagers,” he conceded.
“(But) we think figures provided by individuals exaggerate pollution problems in our area. For several years we have been looking into whether there is a link between cancer and chemical production and have not yet got a scientific answer.”
That whitewash aside, things got so ugly in Liukuaizhuang that government officials quietly began a pollution crackdown in 2003.
It may be too late in that, “Pollutants including heavy metals like mercury and lead have already got into the food chain,” Gao Zhong, a water pollution expert, told Reuters.
Too late for many perhaps, so aspirations naturally turn to the children and grandchildren.
“Of course I am worried, but what is the use of being worried?” said a lung cancer patient. “We have to save our concern for the next generation.”