Authorities in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen detained dozens of people and clashed with protesters who blocked a major road over graft allegations linked to the management of their apartment blocks, local residents said on Wednesday.
More than 100 residents of the Jingcheng Garden apartment complex in Shenzhen's Xinqiao village staged a protest Tuesday on the road outside local government offices.
An eyewitness working in a nearby furniture store said she had seen police attacking the protesters.
"They were beating them, as well, beating up the villagers from Xinqiao who were blocking the road," she said.
"They were kicking them with their boots," she said. "They took all the men away."
An employee from a nearby restaurant surnamed Zeng said traffic was moving freely once more on Wednesday, but that there were still some protesters outside the Xinqiao Party committee offices.
"There were around 20 buses that the security guards used to take the villagers away in," he said. "There were some journalists who tried to shoot the scene but they were prevented from doing so by police."
"The police were beating people up ... We took photos of some of the villagers who were bleeding from the beatings," Zeng said. "The police were using their fists and electric batons."
Protesters were angry over the sale of more than 1,000 parking places at the complex, which officials had then tried to force residents to buy back, Chen added.
She said the management company was asking each apartment owner for 6-11 million yuan (U.S. $946,000-1.73 million) per parking space.
'No property rights'
A local resident and building specialist surnamed Zhang said the apartment block was managed by the Xinqiao village Communist Party committee, which lacked the proper license to do property deals of this kind.
"The villagers probably know more about [the corruption allegations than I do]," he said. "But when we were working on the buildings, the corridors were never finished."
"Nowadays, everyone in society seems to be out for their own profit, instead of for the public good."
An employee who answered the phone at the Shajin neighborhood committee offices declined to comment on the protests.
"I'm not familiar with the details," the employee said. "You'll have to ask them [at the village committee.]"
An employee who answered the phone at the Xinqiao village Party committee didn't deny the incident, however.
"Right now all our leaders are upstairs in a meeting with their immediate superiors," the employee said. "They are discussing things."
Zhang said the apartment block had been built by the village committee on collectively owned land, on the condition that the villagers either occupy them themselves or rent them out. Sale of the apartments was forbidden, however, he said.
"They ... had no property rights."
The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments sparks thousands of "mass incidents" across China every year.
Most protests result in violent suppression, the detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government's wishes.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.