Drunken mob of migrant workers blamed for attack on police station

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 March, 2009, 12:00am


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A mob led by drunken brawlers attacked a police station in Qinghai twice in a day, smashing public facilities and injuring several officers, Xinhua and local police said yesterday.

Xinhua said more than 70 people, all migrant workers from Henan province, had gone on a rampage on Saturday night at Hutai police substation in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province. The authorities had arrested seven people so far, the news agency said.

A police officer from the Xining municipal public security bureau yesterday said two of his colleagues had been seriously injured and were still in hospital last night. Xinhua said several other police officers had suffered minor injuries.

A policeman, who identified himself as Mr Liu, said the incident was triggered by a quarrel between a local family and several migrant workers living nearby over a water leak.

The migrant workers, led by a man named Li Zuchao, were drunk at the time, Xinhua said. They attacked the family, who had gone to their flat to complain about the water leak. Police were called and took both sides to a local police station for questioning.

The drunken migrants went on the rampage inside the police station, beating up two officers, Xinhua said.

More than 70 migrant workers living nearby also gathered outside the police station and demanded their friends' release.

The mob started its attack at about midnight on Saturday.

'They smashed the closed-circuit television system installed outside the building, and broke in.

'Then they tore up police signboards, broke a water dispenser and threw trash bins around. It is total mayhem,' Mr Liu said. The mob eventually left the police station in the early hours of yesterday.

The incident caught international attention as it happened at a sensitive time in a Tibetan-populated region. The place where the riot broke out is only a few hundred metres away from provincial government buildings.

Qinghai was under tight security as part of Beijing's efforts to head off trouble involving Tibetans during March, the 50th anniversary of the 1959 uprising in Tibet.

But Mr Liu yesterday said those involved in the rampage were not Tibetan. All were migrant workers from Henan.

Civilian attacks on military and police compounds used to be extremely rare on the mainland. But over the past few weeks, several have occurred.

Last week, hundreds of people attacked a police station and government offices over a trivial civil dispute in Hainan. They smashed the police station and set fire to police vehicles.

Earlier this month, Tibetan herdsmen in Qinghai threw two home-made bombs at a forest-police vehicle, damaging the car and a fire engine.

Xinhua later said the attack was in response to a police crackdown on illegal logging.

The most shocking incident occurred two weeks ago when a masked gunman shot dead a sentry outside a garrison in Chongqing and made off with the soldier's assault rifle.