Thousands riot over fatal beatings at timber firm

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 October, 2008, 12:00am

Thousands of people rioted in Tonggu county, Jiangxi province , after two villagers were beaten to death by staff of a lumber company, and police were struggling to control the situation last night, a human rights group reported.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said county officials remained on high alert and have called for help from neighbouring areas.

It said hundreds of police in Daduan township were under siege after they were sent to control violent crowds who were infuriated when they learned that two villagers were killed on Wednesday by staff of Liuhai Timber Company.

According to the centre, Liuhai staff suspected thefts were taking place and hired hundreds of people to guard the local forests.

Liuhai, which is owned by an entrepreneur from Zhejiang province , contracted the development rights directly from the local government. The company apparently owned the forests in Daduan.

On Wednesday, company security guards came across two men and reportedly beat them to death.

After news of their deaths surfaced, thousands of villagers stormed Liuhai Timber. They fought with company staff and set fire to the office.

The centre said police were called in quickly, but were unable to control the crowd.

At least two police vehicles had also been set on fire by rioters.

It said more than 100 were injured in the violence.

County officials called for help from nearby counties and more anti-riot police had been sent to deal with the aftermath.

Similar violence has occurred frequently on the mainland in recent years as businesses competed with local farmers for resources and land, and many officials were often poorly trained in mediating mass disputes.