Villagers celebrate as riot-torn region's top cop is sacked

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am

The police chief in riot-plagued Shanwei , eastern Guangdong, has been sacked and is being investigated by the party's corruption watchdog.

The Guangdong provincial commission for disciplinary inspection is investigating Xu Junmin , 56, for suspected violation of party discipline - usually a euphemism for corruption - Xinhua reported yesterday.

Giving no details about what kind of crime Xu might have committed, the announcement came two months after bloody clashes between the residents of two neighbouring villages in Lufeng, a county under the jurisdiction of Shanwei.

On March 7, hundreds of residents from Meitian village launched a violent attack on the village of Gangkou over a long-standing land dispute, hurling home-made bombs packed with rusted nails. Dozens of villagers were wounded and thousands of others deserted their homes for fear of further attacks.

Residents from both villages accused local police of failing to either head off or stop the clash, instead detaining dozens of villagers who petitioned the provincial government in Guangzhou for justice.

A report carried by the Beijing-based Caixin Media Magazine suggested Xu's downfall was linked to his close relationship with Chen Shaoji, Guangdong's former police chief, who was arrested and sacked for suspected corruption last year.

The report quoted people who claimed to be familiar with the law-enforcement sector in Guangdong as saying that in an attempt to please Chen, Xu, then the deputy police chief in Shantou , brought rare delicacies such as bird's nest soup to Chen's home in Guangzhou from Shanwei.

Xu's efforts reportedly paid off when he became Chen's key prot?g?, overseeing the eastern part of the province, after his promotion to Shanwei's police chief in 2006.

Some internet users claiming to be residents of Lufeng wrote on a local bulletin board that many people had set off firecrackers to celebrate Xu's downfall after they learned of the news on Monday night.

'I've bought two packets, each containing 12,000 firecrackers, setting off half of them on Monday evening while keeping the rest to celebrate the removal of Chen Zengxin , the unpopular party boss of Lufeng county,' one wrote.

Shanwei has a long history of confrontation between villagers and the authorities, usually over land disputes. Its Dongzhou township was the focus of a violent protest in 2005, when hundreds of villagers rioted over the construction of the power plant. At least three villagers were killed when police opened fire.

In 2007, at least seven residents were injured as a result of a clash with the armed police, in which villagers wanted to stop construction workers from building power lines from a local electricity plant across their fields. Villagers said the officials had hired local thugs to stop the protesters and called in the police to disperse them.