Five Shenzhen residents involved in clashes with police during protests by hundreds of property owners at a luxury housing estate, many of them Hongkongers, have been jailed for between 24 and 30 months. The five residents of Longzhu Huayuan, in Buji district, were found guilty in Shenzhen's Longgang district court of illegally breaking into a community police office and inciting residents to march through the streets, paralysing traffic, Jing Bao newspaper reported. It is the city's first criminal conviction of owners of residential properties protesting over their rights. In October and December 2005, Longzhu Huayuan residents staged several protests against what they called 'gangland-style management' of their estate. They claimed several residents had been beaten by security guards hired by their property management company. During the protest, residents rushed into the street to voice their anger, at which point dozens of riot police were sent in to take control. More than 500 residents then marched to the nearby superhighway linking Shenzhen and Huizhou. Dozens of the protesters are Hong Kong residents living in Shenzhen. In February last year, the residents took to the streets again after one of their representatives was stabbed by two masked men. Zou Xueping , a law professor from Shenzhen University, said yesterday's judgment did not indicate that authorities were planning a crackdown on such protests. 'Protests by property owners have increased in the past few years,' he said. 'The soaring housing prices and living costs are driving residents to launch protests to protect their property rights. Some of them have become furious. 'Property activists have been detained in protests, but most are set free. 'The authorities have been quite controlled in dealing with such disputes,' said Professor Zou. He said the five defendants had received jail sentences because they had caused disruptions several times by blocking roads. But one lawyer, who did not want to be named, said residents had no choice but to protest after being assaulted by security guards. 'They had reported the case to local police, but no action was taken. If the government had come to help the residents in time, before they were beaten or stabbed, the residents would not have gone out protesting in the streets. They did nothing wrong.'