At least two people have been detained in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu in clashes between local residents and forced eviction and demolition gangs, RFA has learned.
Local authorities have clamped down on any information emerging after the clashes in Hangji township near Jiangsu's Yangzhou city, and waged a campaign of intimidation against anyone trying to speak to the media, local residents said.
The clashes came after a forced demolition team and a team of government-hired thugs visited the home of Wei Gang in Hangji on Monday, a resident surnamed Chen told RFA.
"The government hired the demolition company which is definitely run by a criminal organization," Chen said. "[On Wednesday], an incident took place in which a crowd gathered outside a police station in the town to protest."
"There was no other option; the government was taking no action [on the forced evictions], and they were holding [Wei Gang's] wife in there," he said.
A second resident surnamed Yang said local people had rioted on Wednesday and Thursday, with local military officers involved in negotiating some kind of settlement with the government, according to unconfirmed reports.
The military involvement was possibly because Wei Gang is a People's Liberation Army (PLA) veteran, Yang said.
"On Wednesday, the police called Wei Gang's wife to ask her to bring clothes to him [in detention], but they held her there after she went into the police station," he said.
"There were probably more than 1,000 people creating havoc outside, calling on them to let her out," he said.
Yang said Wei's wife was eventually released, but riots continued on Thursday, prompting a visit from Yangzhou government officials and further clashes.
"[There were reports that] the army opened fire, but I don't think they are reliable; I think that they are rumors," Yang said. "However, they aren't completely without basis in fact. It is highly likely that there were PLA veterans present standing up for their rights, and that the other protest happened right then, and that they all joined in."
An officer who answered the phone at a police station in Yangzhou transferred the call to "the person in charge."
However, the supervisor declined to comment, saying that only official reports should be used.
Repeated calls to the cell phone of a Yangzhou municipal government propaganda official rang unanswered during office hours on Friday.
PLA veterans have organized protests over demobilization benefits across China in recent months, converging earlier this month on Pingdu city in the eastern province of Shandong.
Pingdu authorities sealed off the city after thousands of People's Liberation Army (PLA) veterans converged there over a weekend of protests and clashes over police beatings of their former comrades-in-arms.
Video footage of the protests showed police in full riot gear backing off in the face of elderly men in camouflage gear wielding wooden sticks during the protests in Shandong's Pingdu city, as well as police beating up several protesters, sources told RFA, providing footage of several elderly veterans lying on gurneys at a hospital.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.