The village of Xiditou, 300 kilometres south east of Beijing. A cancer village, like dozens across China.
The crops irrigated with water turned black by the industrial waste that pours into the rivers from local factories. China’s industrial machine running day and night, in blatant disregard of the most basic environmental regulations.
"The air is polluted and it stinks here… I work in the fields to the South, and while I am working, the air becomes very bad. When it gets like that, I can’t breathe, and everybody is effected.”
There have been more than 300 deaths from cancer here in the last few years – one tenth of the village. The area choking on industrial pollution for more than 20 years now.
"Yes, there are many deaths from cancer. My 54 year-old brother died last year, so young. And it was because of the air pollution. It was cancer of the liver. We have no money for treatment."
Lead levels in the water here are 300 times the recommended safe amount. The government turns a blind eye to the problem. Many civil servants are also businessmen and they’ve invested in these factories.
"Nobody has done anything about the pollution here, and I don’t understand why? Why does the government let’s this happen. I must go now, I have something to do.”
Many of these people have been threatened before and refuse to speak. Cancer is a sensitive topic for the Chinese government.
"If this case was brought to court and we had it confirmed that people were getting cancer because of the pollution here, and the public found out, it would unsettle our whole society, and perhaps the local government understand that this would happen. But from the legal perspective, as a lawyer and a scholar, I think the court should deal with things according to the Law.”
But it is unlikely these villagers will see justice. There should be no obstacles in the race for development. Even if it those getting in the way are the dieing villagers of Xiditou.