Students rally in Anhui over road accident

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 September, 2010, 12:00am

More than 1,000 students protested outside a local government office building in Anqing , Anhui , on Monday night after an SUV bearing an official licence plate killed one teenager and injured another at the weekend, a human rights group and witnesses said yesterday.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said more than 1,000 students from the industrial city's No11 Middle School took to the streets from 7pm on Monday. The protest brought inner-city traffic to a standstill at one stage. The centre said angry students tried to break into the government headquarters but were stopped by police.

Students believed their classmates were knocked down by a government driver on Saturday night, but a local court claimed the car was driven by a civilian.

The rally finished yesterday morning when municipal leaders promised to conduct a new investigation into the traffic accident, the centre said.

Protesters warned they would be back if the local government failed to announce the truth, it said.

Witnesses said they had seen a large number of people carrying signs reading 'seeking truth' and 'exposing insiders' marching on the streets of central Anqing on Monday night. 'I saw many people, mostly teenagers or high school students, marching past our hotel,' one hotel staff member said. 'I don't know what happened to them, but apparently all of them were very angry.'

A teacher at the No 11 Middle School denied that the two victims were students at the school but confirmed that the rally had started there.

He said that at first the demonstrators protested outside a traffic police station just next door to the school gate.

'The main entrance of the traffic police station is narrow, and with more and more people gathered outside it, the official had to use the doorway of our school to talk with the protesters,' the teacher said. 'That's why outsiders mistook the two victims for our students.'

The Anqing municipal government issued a notice yesterday playing down the impact of Monday night's demonstration, saying that only 300 people had been involved. It said the vehicle involved in the traffic accident was sold by the Susong County Highway Bureau to a private company in August 2008.

The notice did not say whether anyone died in the accident. It said two schoolboys riding a motorcycle that was hit by the SUV were both severely injured, with one 'being on the verge of death'. It said the municipal government was very concerned about the accident, with municipal political and legislative affairs committee head Wang Zhanglai and police chief Li Shengrong personally meeting with the protesters early yesterday morning to persuade them to leave the government headquarters. The notice said a joint department working team, led by Li, had been set up to investigate the accident.