Typhoon Flood Victims Clash With Riot Police in Zhejiang

china-fitow-protest-oct-2013.jpg Thousands of protesters, some of them injured in police beatings, demonstrate outside municipal government offices in Yuyao, Zhejiang province, Oct. 15, 2013.
Photo courtesy of a protester

Thousands of angry flood victims gathered outside government offices in China's eastern province of Zhejiang on Tuesday, calling on local leaders to resign over what they say is a lack of relief supplies or rescue in the wake of Typhoon Fitow.

The protests followed demonstrations last week by typhoon victims angry at the government’s lackluster relief efforts following deadly floods that ravaged the country’s east coast.

Photos posted to social media sites showed a large crowd outside municipal government buildings in Zhejiang's Yuyao city, which were guarded by ranks of police in full riot gear.

"They were calling on municipal [ruling Chinese Communist] Party secretary Mao Hongfang to come out and apologize," a flood victim surnamed Zhu, who took part in the protests, said on Tuesday.

"The police dragged a few of them into the government buildings and the crowd called for their release. We just waited there, while more and more police came," he said.

"People were throwing trash and water bottles at the police, who retaliated very quickly, beating up some people and dragging them inside [the building]," Zhu said.

Photos of beaten protesters

A second protester who declined to be named estimated the crowd at around 10,000.

"There were probably more than 10,000 flood victims there," he said, adding that fellow protesters had texted photos of people injured in police beatings, although he hadn't been nearby when they happened.

"I daren't pass these around now now," the protester said, in a reference to close monitoring of cell phones users' accounts and postings to popular social media sites by a nationwide network of Communist Party-backed censors.

"[These beatings] did happen. But actually some police were injured as well," he added.

Streets filled

A protester surnamed Shi said he saw "thousands" join the protest.

"The people are angry.... There were several thousand of them.... All the streets in Yuyao were filled with them today," he said.

"People are saying that they haven't seen a single government official during the entire flood relief effort, and ... then they set the police on them."

An official who answered the phone at the Yuyao municipal government offices declined to comment on the protests.

"You need to call the propaganda department," the official said. "They are in a different building."

However, repeated calls to the propaganda department resulted in a busy signal during office hours on Tuesday.

No relief

Local residents have been hitting out at the local government over poor or non-existent rescue operations since the typhoon made landfall early last week, saying their towns were flooded for days and that they received no relief supplies.

Several thousand residents of Tudian township, near Zhejiang's Tongxiang city, blocked the Yanhu highway last Thursday, saying they had had no help from the government, four days after their homes and businesses were submerged in the wake of the typhoon.

Yuyao residents had already blocked a highway in a similar protest the previous Wednesday.

Massive storms in the trail of Typhoon Fitow wreaked havoc in Zhejiang, triggering heavy rain and burst river banks in the densely populated region, flooding urban areas and sparking region-wide power failures.

At least 10 people were reported killed in and around Wenzhou city, while more than 250,000 households lost their power supply, and local authorities estimated the repair bill at around 12.4 billion yuan (U.S. $2 billion), official media reported.

'External excuses'

A third protester in Yuyao told RFA on Tuesday that residents of the worst-hit areas, where the floodwaters were very deep, had been unable to leave their homes for several days, but that no rescue teams had been sent to help them.

"People had to form rescue teams to help themselves," he said, adding that many people had received no relief supplies after they were sent to the towns and villages, and suspected local officials of commandeering them for their own families.

A village Communist Party secretary had been removed from his post after his refusal to walk through flood waters for fear of damaging his designer shoes caused a public outcry, he said.

"The government sent out an order a few days back calling on flood victims to raise money [for the relief effort], which probably [made people angry]," he said.

"The government didn't explain its own actions, but used a lot of external excuses, saying it was a natural disaster that even the immortals couldn't have prevented," he added.

"That made a lot of people very angry."

He said some local people had attacked police vehicles, smashing them and turning them over, and had been detained by police in recent days.

"They have also detained people who sent out tweets, and they have called in some people who retweeted them for 'education,'" the protester said. "Some of my friends were called in and lectured for two hours for retweeting."

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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