Security Clampdown in Taizhou

A land grab by developers sparks another 'mass incident' in China.

taizhougas305.jpg Cars wait to be refueled at a gas station in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, April 6, 2011.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang have mobilized security forces to quell popular unrest after a confrontation over compensation between local villagers and a gas station built on their farmland, a Hong Kong based rights group said on Thursday.

"This went on for two days," said a resident of Rishanfen village near Zhejiang's Taizhou city who asked to remain anonymous. "What happened was that the people at the gas station were beaten up and had to go to hospital."

The unrest was sparked on Tuesday when the head of the Rishanfen village government got into a fight with gas station employees, according to the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China.

Rishanfen villagers quickly showed up to back up their representatives, surrounding the gas station and blocking a nearby expressway leading to the local airport.

They also seized a man they said had hit their elected village chief, who had been negotiating for compensation on their behalf.

The local government sent in thousands of riot police, sparking clashes with villagers, and added further reinforcements on Wednesday, the Information Center said.

It said around a dozen people, including the Rishanfen village chief, had been detained, some of them for taking images of the incident on their mobile phones.

Roads sealed off

A second villager confirmed the report, saying that the police had since sealed off a major road where the clashes took place.

"This dispute began the day before yesterday," the man said. "It was over by yesterday. Now there are riot police here and every other kind of police, too."

He estimated the numbers of security forces in the hundreds.

"I'd guess there were maybe 700 or 800 of them," the man said. "The roads are all closed off, and I could barely get out of the village yesterday."

But Xu Guanbao, Rishanfen village secretary for the ruling Communist Party, an unelected post, denied any such incident had taken place.

"There was no such incident," Xu said. "I am really busy right now."

Repeated calls to the offices of the nearby district government in Shujiang returned a busy signal during office hours on Thursday.

However, one official who answered the phone said he didn't know about the incident.

"This isn't very likely. I haven't had any news about this yet," he said. "I have been at work for the past few days."

Protests on the rise

Land acquisition for development, often resulting in lucrative property deals for local officials, sparks thousands of protests by local communities across China every month, many of which escalate into clashes with police.

China already sees thousands of "mass incidents" across the country every year, according to official statistics, many of which are protests or sit-ins linked to forced evictions, allegations of corruption, and disputes over rural land sales.

The Taizhou incident is the latest violence in China in recent weeks.

Thousands of people went on a rampage in riots triggered by a clash between street vendors and security guards in a small town in the southern province of Guangdong last week.

And in Lichuan city in China's central Hubei province earlier this month, crowds attacked government offices after a local official died in custody.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Ding Xiao for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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