China regulates white T-shirt sales to prevent protests

In a rare move to curb protests against a chemical plant, authorities in southwest China have ordered people to furnish their personal details while photocopying, buying white T-shirts or printing banners.

Kunming authorities have been put on high alert to thwart demonstration against a refinery project and a related paraxylene (PX) factory in neighbouring Anning during China-South Asia Expo early next month.

The expo is the first being organised by China in which India and several South Asian countries are scheduled to take part.

Residents of Kunming city in Yunnan province are planning a third protest on June 6, the opening day of the four-day expo, after their call for scrapping the projects have not been heeded, South China Morning Post reported today.

Chinese officials, however, maintain that the plant is safe.

PX is an industrial chemical that is dangerous if inhaled or absorbed.

Kunming has been witnessing massive demonstrations against the plant.

Meanwhile, the state media has reported a ban on the sale of white T-shirts in parts of Kunming while restricting printing and photocopying to prevent demonstrators from distributing leaflets or banners.

The restrictions will remain in effect until at least the end of June, Global Times reported.

Local residents in Kunming and Anning told Global Times that they have to bring ID cards and register their real names while purchasing white T-shirts and printing or photocopying banners related to the PX project.

Yuan Xuefei, a manager at a local printing and advertising company that has 11 chain stores, said since May 21 they have been filling in forms with customers' details and regularly submitting it to police officers.

The edict was announced by the local industrial and commercial bureau and police department, he said.

"They do not want anyone to protest," a man surnamed Zhang from a local clothing factory told the daily referring to previous protests where demonstrators wore white T-shirts and masks and held banners with slogans rejecting the PX project.

However, other small printing shops are not required to submit personal information.
"If the customer does not ask for sensitive words like 'health' or 'PX,' we will not ask for their information," a local printer said.

Although authorities in Anning said they had abolished the controversial real-name policy on surgical mask purchases, staff at two local pharmacies said that customers who buy more than 10 masks are required to leave their ID information.

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