An official in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu on Thursday denied a report that armed security personnel fired at protesters during ongoing anti-nuclear protests in Lianyungang city.
Police reportedly opened fire on a group of protesters who refused to leave on Thursday, according to a local resident surname Hu, who witnessed the standoff.
"This happened today, and one of the people there was hit by a bullet in the chest," Hu said. "That's got to be serious, right?"
Hu said security was still extremely tight as protests in the city against a planned nuclear waste-processing plant entered their sixth consecutive day.
"There are a lot of armored vehicles, and they detained around 20 to30 people [today], and a lot of people got hurt," Hu said.
"A lot of people were injured, whether intentionally or accidentally," Hu said, estimating that more than 100 people have been detained since the start of the protests on Saturday.
"But the government won't make public how many people have been injured or shot dead," Hu added.
An official who answered the phone at the Lianyungang municipal government offices on Thursday denied the reports of injuries and detentions.
"No, no, that never happened," the official said. "You should read the official news reports."
The official didn't deny protests were ongoing, however.
"There aren't so many protesting now," the official said.
Some fight back
A second resident surnamed Liang said she had seen more than 1,000 police patrolling the city, with checkpoints set up at every major intersection.
"The police stand at the sides of the road, watching and waiting," Liang said. "If a crowd gathers, they move in and beat them up, forcing them to disperse."
Liang said some protesters were fighting back with makeshift weapons, however.
"On Wednesday night, a bunch of guys went to attack the police; there are quite a lot of police receiving treatment in hospital," she said.
"The demonstrators attacked a lot of them with bricks."
Li Maolin, a rights activist from the northern province of Shanxi, said he was severely beaten after he arrived in Lianyungang in a bid to find out more about the protests, which have received little coverage in China's tightly controlled media.
"When I got there, I found the whole place under security lock-down," Li said. "I was grabbed ... and beaten unconscious."
Li said his injuries made it difficult to speak.
"I have a huge swelling on my head, and my throat hurts," he said.
Scant public trust
A Lianyungang resident surnamed Lu said there is scant public trust in the government's announcement that the project will be halted.
"They are just talking about a pause, not about canceling it," Lu said. "We would be happy if they canceled it, because we're worried about our health."
"If they won't cancel it, then they should relocate people somewhere safer."
Meanwhile, authorities in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou detained four people after they held up placards in a public park in support of the Lianyungang protesters.
The four were taken in for questioning after they held up placards in Zhengzhou's May the First Park on Wednesday.
"A few people gathered in May the First Park yesterday in Zhengzhou, Henan province, at around 10.30 a.m.," local resident Qiu San told RFA.
"They were detained by officers from the Jianshe Road police station."
He said two of the activists, who weren't residents of Zhengzhou, had been handed over to police from their hometowns.
"The other two are still in the police station. Maybe their local authorities haven't come to pick them up yet," Qiu said.
The Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said the protests had been triggered by an article on nuclear energy website nuclear.net.cn, claiming the most likely location would be Lianyungang.
"[The article] caused huge waves among local people, after it went viral on social media," the paper said.
It cited experts as saying that China's nuclear industry had undergone safety upgrades since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and that "safety concerns should not be an obstacle to the development of the nuclear industry in China."
China has pledged to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030, and to do this it needs to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent, the paper said.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.