DOZENS of tear-gas rounds were fired at thousands of people who took to the streets of Panzhihua city, Sichuan, to protest against police inaction over a robbery, a human rights group said. At least 10 protesters were arrested and 43 were injured on Friday in the clash in Panzhihua industrial town, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said. Local residents said demonstrations continued yesterday morning. Two thousand people gathered in the city centre on Friday evening to express their dissatisfaction at police for refusing to assist Liu Huawei, who was severely beaten by robbers, the group said. The victim, a businessman from another province, had sought refuge in a traffic police station from three robbers. But the duty officer refused to help and pushed him out of the station. He was attacked and suffered serious injuries, the centre said. Angry citizens surrounded the station and threatened to beat up the duty officer, the centre said. Thousands of people joined the protest after work, it said. Some 500 armed policemen arrived and fired tear-gas, while the protesters responded with rocks and bricks. Protesters also set fire to three police cars, the centre said, before dispersing early yesterday. 'It was all the police's fault,' said a witness. 'Their insensitivity led to public indignation.' He said passers-by had tried to call the police hotline to seek help for the victim but the police had arrived very late. 'The police live and operate on taxpayers' money and it's their duty to help everyone, including visitors,' said a vice-manager of a state construction company in Panzhihua, claiming the traffic police denied protection to Mr Liu because he was not a local person. 'The movement was entirely spontaneous and without organisation, showing the sophistication of our citizens here,' he said. The police ran a special announcement yesterday on local TV news, which said tear-gas was used to arrest bad elements 'in accordance to laws'. However, a duty police officer, who refused to be identified, said in a phone interview that 'the so-called unrest was sheer fabrication and distortion of facts and we retain the legal right to sue anyone who spreads this rumour'. A spokeswoman for the police bureau said she had not heard about the case which 'might not have happened at all'.