Authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan have sent in riot police to disperse thousands of local residents protesting subsidence linked to a local mining operation, protesters and local residents said.
More than 3,000 villagers from Henan's Xuchang county have maintained a 24-hour silent vigil for the past 12 days over the Quandian coal mine run by the Henan Shenhuo Group, which they say has devastated the ground near their homes, swallowed up a road, and left cracks in their houses.
A protester who gave only his surname Zhang said clashes had broken out after the local government dispatched several thousand riot police to the scene of the protest.
"We were blocking the road so they couldn't carry out their mining operations," Zhang said. "They sent a lot of police carrying shields and batons, but we didn't resist, because they had weapons."
"We all know that they want to mine here, but they should make provision for the local people before they start," he said. "They are just mining with no concern for our safety."
Local residents say that since it began operations three years ago, the Quandian mine has affected quality of life and sparked safety concerns in eight nearby villages, with a combined population of more than 10,000 people.
Repeated attempts to complain to the authorities about subsidence had met with no response, they said.
Many of the protesters are residents of Quandian village, which is closest to the mine and where the most damage has been reported.
The silent sit-in began on May 29, with more than 3,000 people blocking the mine entrance in rolling shifts, 24 hours a day.
A resident of nearby Lingnan village said villagers had forsaken the wheat harvest to join the protests.
"The mine has been excavating under the earth, to the point where it is hollow underground now," she said.
"This is the case in Gangwang, Quandian, and Lingbei [villages].... We definitely want the mining company to compensate us, but they haven't said how much yet."