Authorities in the central province of Hunan have sacked three ruling Chinese Communist Party officials after accusing them of beating a former official to death.
Police in Hunan's Xinshao county, near Shaoyang city, are making further arrests after the death of Zhang Youping, 47, party secretary of Xinshao's Yanzhu New Village, they said in a statement posted on the Sina news portal on Tuesday.
County authorities have also fired Daxin township party secretary Wang Hong, his deputy Yuan Aixiong and current Yanzhu New Village party chief Liu Shuguang, the report said.
"The county-level discipline inspection team will now investigate Wang Hong, Yuan Aixiong and three others in connection with the incident, it said.
It said Zhang Youping was beaten to death at 1.40 p.m. on Saturday, and that Liu Shuguang had gathered a group of people including Zhang Kaihua and a man surnamed Xiao to attack Zhang Youping.
"He died after being taken to hospital," the Sina report said, citing the Shaoyang municipal police department.
"That same afternoon, his body was taken by his relatives to the Daxin township government compound, attracting a large crowd."
Further arrests expected
Video of the scene sent to RFA showed several people carrying a covered body on a stretcher, and uniformed police clashing with a large crowd in the government compound.
The key suspects are all currently in the custody of the Xinshao county police, who are making further arrests, the police report said.
A Yanzhu resident surnamed Liang told RFA that the family had taken Zhang Youping's dead body to the government compound in Daxin township out of anger at his death.
"There were around two or three thousand local people there, who supported them," Liang said. "There were about 300-400 police, and some officials, who didn't handle it well, and called in the armed police."
"The police used very brutal tactics and let their dogs loose to bite the relatives and bystanders," he said. "There were huge clashes after that."
Liang said Zhang had been attacked because he opposed redevelopment plans for his village, and had been trying to prevent the corrupt use of village funds and assets.
"This wasn't about a personal grievance; it was a matter that affected the whole village," he said. "The current village officials wanted to demolish and rebuild the village committee building, which had only just been built."
"[Zhang] wouldn't allow it, so the current party secretary called in a gang of thugs and beat the former village party secretary to death."
Clean and honest official
A resident of a nearby village surnamed Qu said Zhang had been widely seen as a clean and honest officials, who had sold off his house and car to pay for a bridge to be used by local people.
"I am from the village next door, and [Zhang] really did do something good," Qu said. "He was a good official, but the new party secretary is more like a petty dictator. He wasn't elected, but was directly appointed by the local government."
Calls to the Daxin township government offices rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.
An official who answered the phone at the Xinshao county government offices declined to comment, saying official statements have already been published online.
A local resident surnamed Wang said she had witnessed huge crowds outside the township government on Monday.
"There were so many people there; more than 1,000 at the very least," she said. "The riot police also clashed with local people, and they let loose some police dogs, which bit people."
"The riot police took [the body] away at around 4.00 a.m. for an autopsy," Wang said.
Reported by Ding Wenqi for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.