Two incidents of people protest have erupted in Guangdong. Thousands of small-business owners in Zhaoqing confronted riot police in a protest against a sharp rent increase. And villagers from Heshan massed outside the provincial government headquarters in Guangzhou yesterday over the illegal sale of collectively owned property. A jade shop owner in Zhaoqing said yesterday that the clashes with police started on Friday. 'A few thousand vendors at a local jade market went on strike, took to the streets, blocked the traffic and smashed the market's property management office before confronting police on Friday and Saturday to vent their anger against the tripling of their rent,' the shop owner said. He said traders were angry because costs had shot up over the past few years but their retail prices were almost unchanged. A woman trader said she saw riot police beating demonstrators with their truncheons at the market on Saturday afternoon. Both traders said the clashes had stopped, order had been restored and business in the market resumed yesterday morning. Riot police were still patrolling. A post on mainland chat rooms said that violence had erupted and police had used pepper spray to subdue the protesters, some of whom were injured or detained. Meanwhile, Xinhua reported that between 300 and 400 residents of a village in Heshan, western Guangdong, had protested outside the Guangdong provincial government office and the Communist Party's provincial headquarters early yesterday. Petitioners complained that Feng Weigen, the head of their village, had illegally sold collectively owned shops built on their farmland, the report said. Feng and some subordinates were accused of selling the publicly owned real estate, said to be worth hundreds of millions of yuan, for around 60 million yuan (HK$73 million), petitioners said. Feng and his subordinates have been detained and are under investigation but villagers gathered at the government offices when they heard he was to be released. The cases follow online speculation that Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang ordered the provincial publicity department to stop imposing restrictions on news reports. In another incident of people protest, the Nanfang Daily, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party's Guangdong provincial committee, reported on November 22 that roughly 400 residents of Wukan village, in Lufeng county, had staged a protest outside the county government office the previous day against the suspected illegal sale of collectively owned farmland. Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong, said that more reports of unrest on the mainland may be emerging in the media because of liberal positioning among rival candidates for promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee.