|Pollution in China (credit: Anjali aisha)|
This article examines local official records to find voices of protest against industrial pollution in Hubei, China, during its early reform era from the 1970s to the 1980s. Archival evidence from unpublished official documents indicates that to some extent local officers responded to citizens’ petitions against two main forms of industrial pollution: air pollution and soil pollution. Air pollution mostly affected urban residents but elicited more contention. Soil pollution got comparatively less exposure but caused more direct damage to impacted peasants. Both rural and urban victims of industrial pollution projected their own voices of protest typically by submitting group-authored and signed or anonymous whistle-blowing letters. Protests against pollution emerged with inter-group conflict negotiation in public or semi-public venues as well as in local investigation reports. The findings discussed here help to explain how local environmental governance evolved through increasing public awareness at subnational levels in China’s early reform years.