HONG KONG—One man has been detained and a woman injured in clashes between police and villagers protesting at the construction site of a planned U.S. $160 million international container terminal in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.
"The villagers were all completely unarmed," the Zhuangyuanao village chief, identified by his surname, Yan, said. "The police started to beat them up first."
"I saw them grab a woman around the throat and then kick her all over her lower body. After that they detained one of us who was taking video at the scene. I went around a lot of police stations [Monday] afternoon but I didn't find him," he said.
He added Tuesday that police had now cleared the area of protesters.
"Right now the police have taken over the space that was occupied by protesters," he said. "A work team has been set up to deal with protesters."
A villager surnamed Lin said: "One villager was detained last night, and the others have escaped. I heard that the authorities planned to detain a dozen, but they failed to do so as the other villagers escaped."Protests outside government building
They sent about 300 police officers. They pulled down and confiscated all our tents, our chairs, our bedclothes, everything, and took them away."
Village chief Yan
"We requested that the authorities release them, but they refused to do so," she said, adding that officials had refused to address villagers' concerns throughout the protest.
Yan said the clashes broke out after around 100 villagers from Dongtou island had arrived outside the offices of the Yuanjiao village government early Monday, demanding that officials meet with them about the port project and respond to their demands for compensation for access to the shoreline.
They surrounded a vehicle carrying the village Party secretary and refused to allow her to leave, and large numbers of police were dispatched to the scene.
Village Party secretary Zheng declined to comment. "As you know, it is not convenient for me to talk to you. I am not in charge now," she said.
Yan said several dozen police had already been to the construction site where 500 villagers had been staging a sit-in for several weeks and tried to move them. But their large number meant police used no force against them.Disputed shoreline access
But 300 more police were sent to the scene Monday after the clashes outside the government offices, and they destroyed the tents in which protesters were sleeping. There were too many of them for the villagers to do anything about it, he said.
"They sent about 300 police officers. They pulled down and confiscated all our tents, our chairs, our bedclothes, everything, and took them away," Yan added.
He said police were now seeking to detain several villagers who surrounded village Party secretary Zheng's car.
An official at the Yuanjue village government offices didn't deny the clashes had occurred but declined to give further details. "I can't speak to you on the phone," the official said.
The protesters, who say they make a living from the beach by collecting shellfish and launching their fishing boats there, are from Zhuangyuanao and neighboring villages on Dongtou island, near the eastern coastal city of Wenzhou.
The Dongtou islanders, who were displaying placards showing how long the sit-in had gone on, have vowed to remain at the site until the government sends representatives to talk to them.
Port development project
The protesters were sitting in on land intended for use in the construction of the planned 1.096 billion yuan (U.S. $160 million) Zhuangyuanao Deepwater Port.
Phases I, II, and III of the project were planned in 2004 on a total area of 4,570 mu (761 hectares) of land and shoreline adjacent to Zhuangyuanao and other villages.
The villagers say they first began to demand compensation from the government in 2006, but the authorities said that shoreline is public land, and that no compensation was required.
Work began in 2005 on the Zhuangyuanao Deepwater Port, which local officials hope will transform Wenzhou from a river port to a fully competitive seaport.
The Phase I project alone has a planned annual capacity of 200,000 containers and 700,000 tonnes of bulk cargo.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Lillian Cheung and in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and Jia Yuan. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.