Riot police in full body armor clashed with thousands of unarmed protesters in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on Monday as angry local residents poured onto the streets to oppose plans to build a waste incinerator plant near their homes.
Around 10 people were injured after the authorities called in busloads of riot police and unidentified personnel in military-style uniforms after a massive street protest late on Sunday in Guangdong's Qingyuan city, local sources told RFA.
Residents of Qingyuan's Feilaixia village said they had joined the march to the Qingyuan municipal government offices on Sunday, only to find that the authorities had mobilized large numbers of riot police against them.
"There were at least 10,000 out today, and about 2,000 riot police carrying assault weapons, with police dogs and long metal batons," a Feilaixia resident surnamed Xie told RFA.
"They beat up an elderly person and flung them to the ground ... Now the riot police are guarding the entrance to the municipal government buildings, and trying to disperse us," he said.
"Today's protest wasn't a success, although we all went on strike from schools and businesses; the whole town was on strike for three days," Xie said, adding: "They started detaining people today; they took away more than 50 people, and they even used tear gas and beat up the villagers ... using long batons."
"Some would hold them down, and the others would beat them," he said. "We daren't protest any more. So many people have been injured."
A local resident surnamed Lu said many of the protesters were high school students who had tried to ditch class to attend.
"But the police were waiting outside the school gates with buses today [to stop them]," she said.
"We only found out about this project on May 2," Lu said. "Nobody knew anything about it before that."
According to a local resident surnamed Dai, the protesters have no trust that the government will prevent toxic chemicals from being emitted from the plant.
"They had a similar thing in Wuhan, and there was very serious pollution [of the air and water]," Dai said. "That's why the villagers have such a big problem with it."
"We don't know exactly when they plan to begin construction," he said. "The government hasn't told us ... the protests seem to be escalating."
Repeated calls to the Qingyuan municipal government offices and local township offices rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
Video of the protests filmed by eyewitnesses showed thousands of people parading with placards and umbrellas through the rainswept streets of Guangdong's Qingyuan city late on Sunday, while later footage showed dozens of protesters with banners fleeing down the streets, apparently from police.
Footage shot on Monday showed dozens of riot police with helmets, shields and batons, beating up protesters, some of whom were shown with head injuries. In another clip, police were filmed throwing an elderly woman to the ground amid a standoff with angry residents, while another elderly protester was carried away unconscious in a separate incident.
Hundreds of protesters remained on the city's streets on Monday, many of them young people, chanting "Protest! Protest!" in unison, while ranks of riot police and security personnel in military-style uniforms patrolled through cordoned-off streets.
In one clip, two women were shown squatting down among a group of uniformed police, their hands restrained with cable ties, while police were shown detaining several men on the city streets on Monday in separate clips.
A resident surnamed Li said police had closed off major streets in the city following the clashes, but not all protesters had sought shelter from massive rainstorms that were battering the city on Monday.
"All of the main highways in the vicinity of the Qingyuan municipal government have been sealed off now," Li said. "There are huge rainstorms here ... right now, but there are still some people out there protesting."
"The police are kettling them, and then forcing the demonstrators to disperse, section by section."
He said many high school students were confined to campus on Monday, to prevent them from joining in with further protests.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Ding Wenqi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.