Third riot in a month erupts in Chongqing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2007, 12:00am

Thousands of people took to the streets in Chongqing for the third time in a month, in protest against a land deal that killed one man and injured more than 10, officials and villagers said yesterday.

The rioting began on Tuesday and eventually involved about 5,000 rural residents before the crowd dispersed at about 2am yesterday.

Changshou district authorities sent more than 1,000 armed police and two armoured vehicles to restore order, a spokesman from the Yanjiayuan Street office said.

The third large-scale outbreak of social unrest in the municipality in a month was triggered by farmers dissatisfied with different government compensation offered for land for different phases of an industrial zone project.

The neighbourhood government office spokesman confirmed yesterday that one protester was beaten to death and 10 others injured. He said up to 600 police officers were still stationed in the township.

'Our officials from the street office and higher levels are in the township to comfort the victim's relatives and to prevent further violence,' the spokesman said. 'I think they will come out with a compensation plan soon.'

He said two police cars and a vehicle owned by the district government office were destroyed.

A factory worker said the farmers also were angry because many of the injured were teenagers. Another worker from the industrial zone said she saw dozens of police cars guarding the downtown area.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said five police cars had been destroyed in three days of protests. It said there were hundreds of protesters pelting police vehicles with stones yesterday morning.

The centre said about 5,000 farmers who sold their land for the project three years ago were unhappy because the government was now offering double the compensation for land for the industrial zone's expansion. It said the anger was exacerbated by the failure of factories in the zone to give farmers jobs.

Mass riots on the mainland have become one of the main factors undermining President Hu Jintao's plan to build a 'harmonious society'.

Lower-level governments usually resort to armed police to deal with the conflicts, even though Beijing has asked for peaceful resolutions.

The party-run Study Times published a commentary yesterday calling on local officials to use democratic, persuasive and educational ways to solve disputes because high-handed suppression would only cause problems.

Last Friday, authorities in Youyang county, Chongqing, sent in more than 200 armed police to disperse 10,000 villagers gathered outside a county government office to protest against officials' failures in a school murder case.

Three weeks before, more than 10,000 Chongqing residents clashed with police after city inspectors beat a flower seller to death.