Thousands clash with police at demolition site

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2007, 12:00am

Three protesters are missing and six have been detained in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province after thousands of residents clashed with police over the demolition of a home owned by a feisty granny, witnesses and a human rights organisation said yesterday.

More than 20 people were beaten by police while five police cars had been destroyed on Wednesday when 20,000 protesters had clashed with police, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

The 90-year-old grandmother and her family of 17 had refused to sell their four-storey home to make way for a highway for what they considered to be below the market rate.

Residents claimed the government had issued a gag order to local media and any pictures or text related to the unrest had been deleted within moments of being posted on the internet.

Wednesday's riot came in the wake of unrest on Monday, when police expelled more than 30,000 people from a square close to the holdout building. They had gathered to watch local officials demolish the building, witnesses said, but police mistook them for demonstrators.

Residents said tensions between locals had been exacerbated when authorities began arresting people who had taken part in the scuffle.

'Police started to hunt down those who had led the crowd in the [Monday] confrontation,' one of the building's owners, Liang Wei, said, adding that two of his relatives had been taken from the home on Monday and one was still missing. Another witness, Ren Meisheng , said two people who had been beaten by police had also gone missing after being sent to hospital. 'Neither my friends in the local police, nor staff at the hospital can tell me where they are,' Mr Ren said.

He said local officials had used unnecessary violence on innocent passers-by and triggered the mass protest. 'I saw police kicking two people until they fell on the ground,' he said. 'It was too brutal.'