WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 - Hundreds of people forced from their homes to make way for the controversial Three Gorges Dam staged a large-scale protest demanding that officials allow them to return home, a police officer and a local government official in Hunan's Yongzhou City told Radio Free Asia (RFA). Ten police officers were injured during the demonstration Monday, according to the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He estimated the number of protesters at nearly 1,000. The demonstrators had been forcibly relocated from the Three Gorges Dam zone on the Yangtze River to Yongzhou City in Hunan Province. The protesters also blockaded a local bridge, the police officer said. A Yongzhou government official confirmed that a rally by the Three Gorges Dam immigrants had occurred but denied they had blocked the bridge. "They (the relocated immigrants) had asked to have their cases heard for days, to no avail. So they blocked the train station and the bridge. We dispatched a large number of police, who clashed with the relocated immigrants. Ten policemen were hurt," he said. "I don't know if any of the immigrants got hurt. We had dispatched all our police force. Some of them were beaten and sustained injury. Some seriously, some only slightly," he said. "The clashes occurred mainly at the train station. The bridge had re-opened by 5:00 p.m., when I came to work. The crowds had gathered at the train station. They said they wanted to return to their hometowns by train. They blocked the train station." Mediation efforts had failed, the police officer said, adding: "They rallied together and said they had grievances. They showed up and just started smashing things, bringing chaos to the municipal government." "Policemen wear uniforms, so they became obvious targets. Our bureau director had ordered the policemen not to reciprocate the beating or verbal abuse. 'Let them hit us' - that was the order." The police officer said that public wrath over the project could spread because Three Gorges Dam immigrants have relocated across the country, and that would bring grave consequences to the government, he said. "They?re all in this together," he said. "They stick together." The Three Gorges Dam was first proposed during the early days of Mao Zedong's rule, in the 1950s. The Chinese government decided to pursue the project in 1998 in a bid to meet the country's sharply rising demand for energy, forcing millions of local people to move from their homes. The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest hydropower project. Located in Hubei Province in central China, the dam is expected to cost more than six billion dollars by the time of its scheduled completion in 2009. RFA's complete report is available on the World Wide Web at Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to those countries in Asia where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news reports - along with opinions and commentaries - and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.

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