Authorities in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian are holding seven people following violent clashes at the weekend over a controversial land reclamation project, local residents said on Monday.
More than a dozen residents of Aoshan village near Putian city were injured in the clashes with police amid widespread opposition to the forcible reclamation of local coastal waters and the imminent destruction of their seafood farms.
"Villagers here can easily make 10,000 yuan[ U.S. $1,652] [out of a seafood business]," a resident of Sanjiangkou township, which administers Aoshan, said after the clashes.
"This village is like one big family, according to law, and they are coming to our home to cause trouble," said the resident, who gave only his surname, Gong.
The clashes on Saturday were triggered by the detention of villagers who had petitioned the local government against the project, other residents said.
"More than 200 police officers came, and they started detaining people, about 30 or 40 people including women and elderly people," a villager who declined to be named said in an interview on Monday.
"They surrounded the main intersection, and someone got overexcited and threw a brick at them, and the police got angry and five of them attacked a single villager," he said.
"It was quite terrifying; they beat them round the head and face with the brick."
'Kicking up a fuss'
One Aoshan resident surnamed Lin said several people were attacked by police in this way.
"The villagers were kicking up a fuss because there wasn't enough money allocated [for compensation] for the reclamation project," Lin said in an earlier interview on Sunday.
"They sent several hundred riot police, and ... things got pretty intense," she said. "[They used] electric batons, and they had shields and helmets, but the villagers didn't have any [weapons]."
"But then one villager threw a brick and started a fight with them," Lin said.
"They detained seven people, and there were more than 20 people hurt, some of them were half dead," she said. "The fighting was really fierce; I felt really sorry for them when I saw it, but I didn't know what to do."
"They want to reclaim the land to build a factory, but people here mostly rely on oyster and sea cucumber farms for their livelihood," Lin said.
An officer who answered the phone at the Sanjiangkou police station confirmed clashes had taken place, but declined to comment on the report of police violence.
"I wasn't on duty that day, so I don't know the details, but my colleagues told me that some police officers were injured, but they didn't say how many," he said.
Several activists from the village are currently in hiding for fear of arrest, local sources said.
An official who answered the phone at the Sanjiangkou township government offices said work had yet to begin officially on the project.
"It hasn't started yet," the official said, but declined to comment further. "If you need anything, you'll have to come here; we're very busy here," he said.
Local officials have sold off coastal land, wetland, and coastal waters to developers in recent years, paying out 4,000 yuan (U.S.$660) per person in compensation, a sum local people say does little to compensate them for a lucrative industry and loss of livelihood.
The dispute with the government flared last September after several hundred villagers petitioned the local government over the plans, in a protest that was swiftly suppressed by police.
The local government has since imposed an information blackout surrounding the project, residents said.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.