Public protests against the Beijing-Shenyang high-speed railway in China

Guizhen He*, Arthur P.J. Mol, Yonglong Lu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


With the rapid expansion of the high-speed railway infrastructure in China, conflicts arise between the interests of local citizens living along the planned tracks and the national interests of governmental authorities and project developers. This paper addresses questions of why and how Chinese citizens mobilize for and participate in protests against high-speed railway projects and to what effect. To this end, a comprehensive study was conducted on the decision-making process, public opinions, and protest actions regarding the plans and site choices for the Beijing-Shenyang high-speed railway from 2008 to 2013, combining quantitative and qualitative methods. In general, local residents are supportive of high-speed railway project construction, but they contest the closed decision-making process and the poor design and siting choices for the track by governmental authorities and companies. After four years of resident protests through formal complaints, lobbying, protest demonstrations, organizing alternative opinion polls, and discussions with authorities, citizens were partially successful in changing the siting of the track, adding protective measures (e.g., tunnels and sound screens), and saving green belts. Two conclusions can be drawn from this case study. First, regardless of the growing legal requirements, public participation in major projects in China is far from a standard practice. Final citizen participation is often preceded by serious conflict. Second, with defined good governance boundaries, there is increasing room for public participation in environmental movements, which does influence final decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalTransportation Research. Part D, Transport and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • China
  • Environmental concerns
  • Environmental protest
  • Infrastructure
  • Public participation


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