Man hacked to death in Hainan clashes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 March, 2009, 12:00am

At least one person was killed and 11 were injured when more than 1,000 farmers from two impoverished neighbouring villages in Hainan clashed with each other and authorities for a third day yesterday, according to state media.

Armed and angry farmers from Gancheng village in Dongfang city fought again late on Tuesday and yesterday afternoon, attacking residents from Baoshang village with long knives and wooden sticks as authorities scrambled to restore peace by deploying about 500 anti-riot police. A man was hacked to death and six people were injured yesterday afternoon in a dispute that stemmed from a teenagers' brawl.

Villagers burned down a four- storey hotel and many houses on Tuesday night, critically injuring one farmer and wounding four others. Over the three days of clashes, villagers have also torched a town government building, a police station, houses and 13 official vehicles.

A Dongfang spokesman said the situation was 'out of control' and police officers had blocked major roads, sealed off the two hostile villages and tried to separate the men.

'The tensions were so high that the police didn't even dare to arrest any of the mob, fearing it would trigger further reactions from both sides. The deputy director of the provincial police bureau and police commanders arrived to control the bloody scuffles,' he said.

The city tried to settle the dispute by deploying more than 100 officials to negotiate with the communities, but they could not stop the fighting.

The unrest escalated after about 20 people gathered outside a government building on Monday night to demand action over a student who had been bullied by teenagers from Baoshang. Villagers also claimed that at least four children had been admitted to hospital over the past three months after being beaten up by neighbouring villagers, but the town government and police had ignored the crimes.

The mob accused town officials of discrimination and failing to properly intervene because they were colluding with officials from Baoshang. Many rioters said they had been dissatisfied with the authorities for a long time but had no way to air their grievances.

The town's police chief and a police instructor were sacked yesterday in response to villagers' demands, and a suspect accused of assaulting children was also arrested, according to Xinhua.

Authorities estimated the rioting had inflicted more than 1 million yuan (HK$1.14 million) in damage on the community, one of the poorest in the country.

Officials also vowed to severely punish those involved in the violence.