Sichuan protests over compensation had become increasingly violent The central government has stepped in to defuse a crisis in Sichuan province where villagers rioted over plans to build a dam that would force more than 10,000 of them off their land. The intervention was welcomed by the villagers in Hanyuan county who said they no longer trusted the local authorities. They also welcomed the decision to sack a number of local officials accused of ignoring their plight. However, locals said tensions were still running high in the county, part of Yaan city, with a large number of troops on guard to prevent further unrest. Wang Yang, a vice-secretary-general of the State Council, met local cadres on Monday to announce the sackings. He promised villagers that the building of the Pubugou Dam project on the Dadu River would not resume until an agreement on relocating them had been reached. Officials who were sacked included county chief Bai Rangao and county party secretary Tan Zhengyu. Mr Tan was succeeded by one of his deputies, Yang Changming . Speaking to more than 1,000 provincial, city and county officials, Mr Wang said the central government gave top priority to protecting the interests of the people. 'The party's Central Committee and the State Council have always made it the top priority to realise, safeguard and develop the fundamental interests of the people,' he said, adding that troops were there only to ensure the villagers' safety. Mr Wang said they would 'protect assets of the state and your safety and your property, and maintain social order'. His explanation was not well received by villagers. They said the military presence was unnecessary because they wanted only to safeguard their legitimate rights. 'We don't trust local governments any more but we certainly have confidence in the central government,' said a resident of Dashu township. Riots broke out late last month and reached crisis level early this month when people from seven townships clashed with police to stop the damming. Residents were mainly dissatisfied with the relocation plan, which would force up to 10,000 people to move from their rich and fertile farmland without adequate compensation. Authorities have confirmed the death of one policeman in the riots but villagers claim at least two others were killed. Mao Shoulong, from People's University in Beijing, said the intervention by the central government was crucial in defusing the crisis. 'It was a major gesture by the central government to ease tensions and to demonstrate its stance on the issue. There have to be some individuals rather than the whole government made to take responsibility,' he said.