Anger mounts in Chongqing at merger plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am


Demonstrations in Chongqing's affluent Wansheng district over plans to merge it with a poorer county have escalated since Saturday, residents say.

Most shops in the district remained closed yesterday. Its streets have been largely devoid of daytime traffic since May 25, when the latest round of protests started with thousands of residents flooding onto the streets at night for 'peace walks' protesting against the planned merger.

Public anger rose on Saturday after the local government broke a promise to solve the problem and armed police started to occupy the area and detain people. No Chongqing or district officials could be reached for comment yesterday.

'On Saturday night, we were told to keep an eye on local official media because the authorities would release a new statement about the merger plan,' said one resident. 'But we waited for nothing. Tens of thousands of angry residents gathered in central Wansheng and on several highways to protest.

'In the past two days, we have heard that several residents have been detained after a great number of armed policemen and armed vehicles were sent to Wansheng from other areas.

'The policemen have dispersed angry crowds, leaving many people injured, and have detained many people taking action.

'However, the more residents they catch, the more residents become angry and join the protest.'

He said the latest protests started on May 25, when many residents took to the streets after hearing that some students and their family members had been injured and detained after clashing with police.

'The authorities have ruled our people with an iron hand since April,' he said. On April 10 and 11, thousands of Wansheng residents rioted over the rural-urban merger.

The owner of an inn in Wansheng said: 'No shops are open. The authorities have urged us to reopen the shops but nobody dares do so.

'I've also closed my inn in the daytime and have joined the peace walk at night. Most of us took the action to prevent the merger of our district with the neighbouring county. The merger will only make Wansheng marginal and fade.'

A woman at an internet cafe said: 'It's a mess in Wansheng. I've not heard that anybody has been killed. But tension is red hot. It's scary.'

Although the protest is not specifically about the downfall of former Chongqing Communist Party secretary Bo Xilai , some internet users have spread pictures of the protests on mainland microblogs and have called the protesters 'supporters of Bo in Wansheng'.

In October, the State Council approved the merger of Wansheng with Qijiang county to form a new district called Qijiang. Under the plan, Wansheng would become an economic and technology zone within the district.

Qijiang county is considered less affluent and Wansheng residents fear the merger will affect their welfare benefits, including pensions.