Justified & Ancient
- Aug 6, 2003
- Reaction score
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1457243,00.htmlChinese village protest turns into riot of thousands
Jonathan Watts in Jiangsu province, China
Tuesday April 12, 2005
Reports that two elderly women were killed during a protest against factory pollution have sparked a bloody riot by thousands of villagers in eastern China.
Several dozen police officers were injured, five seriously, during the clashes in Huankantou village, Zhejiang province, on Sunday. It was the latest of several recent violent demonstrations, of a kind that poses an increasingly serious threat to China's stability.
The two protesters were said to have been killed when officials tried to disperse 200 elderly women who had kept a two-week vigil outside a chemical factory that they blamed for ruined crops and deformities in new-born babies.
Witnesses claimed that police and construction officials from the Dongyang city government were reckless in their attempt to pull down the demonstrators' bamboo shelters and arrest the women.
"They were run over by police cars," one villager told Reuters.
The Dongyang government denies that anyone was killed, saying that was a rumour spread by people with "ulterior motives".
But it acknowledged a rampage by a huge mob of villagers who smashed their way into a school where the police and officials were holed up.
"They were attacked with rocks, cudgels and choppers by thousands of people and more than 30 were hurt and taken to hospital, five in serious condition," a city statement said.
In an attempt to restore order, 3,000 riot police officers were dispatched to the area later in the day. Villagers smashed the windows of 50 of their buses before the police regained control with teargas, clubs and shields.
"People were throwing rocks ... it was chaotic and many people got injured," a witness told Agence France Press.
The authorities imposed a news blackout and journalists trying to enter the area were detained by the police.
The elderly women at the centre of the disturbance were opposed to a plan to build a second chemical factory at the Huashi industrial estate. Their banner read: "Give me back my land. Save my children and grandchildren."
Violent demonstrations are becoming increasingly hard to suppress in a country where economic growth has exacerbated frustration at corruption, environmental destruction and the growing gap between rich and poor.
Government statistics say the number of protests grew by 15% last year to 58,000, with more than 3 million people taking part. In many provincial capitals, roadblocks occur more than once a week. Over the weekend, anti-Japanese demonstrators held rallies in three cities, including Beijing where the windows of the Japanese embassy were smashed.
Last November, at least one person died when tens of thousands of farmers in Sichuan marched against a dam project that will make 100,000 people homeless; and the month before, rioters in Chongqing burned police cars after rumours of corruption.