Chinese authorities have detained 25 people after thousands went on a rampage in riots triggered by a clash between street vendors and security guards in a small town near the southern city of Guangzhou.
The riots in Xintang, Zengcheng prefecture, in Guangdong province late Friday touched off tensions between migrant workers and local authorities in the heart of China's manufacturing industry.
"It was thousands of people and they smashed and burned cars," one witness told RFA. "It was a mess."
The incident is the latest violence in China in recent days. In Lichuan city in China's central Hubei province last week, crowds attacked government offices after a local official died in custody.
Two high level officials implicated in the June 4 death of Ran Jianxin, 49, who had opposed a local government land grab, have been taken into police custody, official media said on Saturday.
The Xintang incident began with a dispute between security guards and a migrant couple, including a pregnant woman, who had set up a stall by the entrance of a supermarket.
According to information posted by netizens online, the 20-year-old woman surnamed Wang, and her 28-year-old husband surnamed Tang, were running the stall when a security guard told them to leave and hand over their earnings.
A tussle ensued and the pregnant woman was pushed to the ground, angering onlookers who tried to prevent the security guards from taking the couple away.
The clash attracted a larger crowd as security forces backed by armored vehicles intervened, with some reports saying several thousand people joined the riots.
Rioters threw bricks and plastic water bottles at the security forces, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Video of the clash scene posted online showed overturned motorcycles and police cars in the streets of Xintang, home to many migrant workers in textile factories.
Authorities said that they had detained 25 people for investigations into the incident, expected to add to concerns among migrant workers harassed by enforcement and security personnel.
There have been "mistakes" made on this issue of migrant workers, one witness said.
"Why would these migrant laborers want to riot? There must be some reason. .... I'm from outside of here, and those local people have strong opinions about people from outside," the witness said.
Search terms related to the area where the incident broke out—such as "Xintang," "Zengcheng," and "Dadun"—were blocked as "sensitive terms" on China's popular Sina microblogging site on Saturday.
Phone calls to the Zengcheng Public Security Bureau went unanswered.
A staff member reached by telephone at the Guangdong province public security bureau confirmed the incident but refused to give details, telling RFA's reporter to refer to press reports.
A statement posted on the Guangzhou municipal police website said that rioters blocked traffic and damaged police vehicles, forcing police to take steps to bring the situation under control.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.