Armed Police Surround Chinese Township


2005-12-08
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Disputed land: An elderly peasant makes her way past wind power turbines near the southern port of Shanwei. Photo: AFP/Mike Clarke

HONG KONG—Hundreds of armed police have sealed off a township near the southern Chinese city of Shanwei following violent clashes between local residents and security forces in which at least two people have died.

Villagers said an atmosphere of fear had settled on Dongzhou after the armed crackdown late Monday and early Tuesday, in which many reported seeing riot squads from the People’s Armed Police firing on protesters who fought back with home-made petrol bombs and threw rocks.

“Of course we want to protect our own interests, protect our village,” a resident told RFA. “So we fought back. Some people were throwing petrol bombs, things like that they made themselves. That’s why the police opened fire on us. Some people were injured by this.”

'People definitely died'

The villagers said they knew people had died but they didn’t know how many because it was dark."People definitely got hit by bullets and they definitely died,” one woman said.

We went to look for our husbands. We don’t know where they are. But we were told not to go any further. We were told that we were not allowed in the area and that if anything should happen we’d be held responsible.

“The police have sealed off all the roads into our hometown. There are tanks on the main highway. We are surrounded. No one can get in, and no one can get out,” one male resident of Dongzhou township told RFA’s Cantonese service. Several other villagers reported seeing tanks, but no independent confirmation was available.

“Around 4:00 p.m. [Thursday], public security personnel fished up more than a dozen bodies from a ditch. We happened to be driving by and saw it,” one Dongzhou villager told RFA’s Mandarin service.

Some women villagers tried to visit the site where the shooting occurred to look for their missing husbands.

Around 4:00 p.m., public security personnel fished up more than a dozen bodies from a ditch. We happened to be driving by and saw it.

“We went to look for our husbands. We don’t know where they are. But we were told not to go any further. We were told that we were not allowed in the area and that if anything should happen we’d be held responsible," one woman said.

One villager said bloodstains where the shooting took place had been washed off, while another reported that one man was shot dead by police who mistook a carton of water he was carrying for a weapon. “The police thought he was carrying dynamite and shot him dead with one bullet,” the villager said.

Three men wanted

Late Thursday, villagers said, police dispatched a special unit to Dongzhou village where they handed out leaflets and broadcast on loud speakers that three villagers were wanted: Lin Hanru, Huang Xijun, and Huang Xizhan.

“They showed photos of the three wanted men. The police said the three had done a lot of harm to the village,” said one villager.

Unconfirmed reports were circulating that many adults were still missing from their homes following the violence and that some bodied had been destroyed. Some said they had seen bodies in the street but were too afraid to identify them out of fear of the heavy armed police presence.

People are afraid the armed police will raid the village at night, and take people away. We beg for journalists to come here and report. We are willing to help them.

“There are still bodies out on the main street, but we don’t dare to go there and see who they are in case we get shot too. There are a lot of police in the village still,” one woman said.

“All the armed police are still in the township. And there are tanks, too,” another villager told RFA-Cantonese reporter He Shan. Asked if he could tell the difference between tanks and armored personnel carriers, the man replied: “Yes, I saw them. They are over in Dongzhou. They’re tanks. There are two of them. There’s no mistake.”

Dongzhou, with its population of around 40,000, has turned into a ghost town at night, with most people afraid to be on the streets after dark.

Call for media coverage

One resident surnamed Liu called on journalists to come to Dongzhou to report on the standoff. “People are afraid the armed police will raid the village at night, and take people away. We beg for journalists to come here and report. We are willing to help them,” he said.

A reporter from Hong Kong’s TVB television station who tried to enter the township was detained by police, however, and forced to write a self-criticism. “Everything has been sealed off,” a colleague at TVB told RFA’s Cantonese service. “We tried to go there to report but we couldn’t get through.”

Liu said that two nights after police opened fire on a crowd of villagers, some people were still unaccounted for, and the worst was feared. “One guy hasn’t been home since he ran out of the house after hearing that his younger brother had been hit by a police bullet. He hasn’t been seen since,” he said.

Local sources said construction began on a wind-power plant several months ago but halted amid a dispute over land compensation.

Original reporting in Cantonese by He Shan and Grace Kei Lai-see, and in Mandarin by Ding Xiao in Hong Kong. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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