HONG KONG—China’s leadership has intervened in mounting unrest surrounding a controversial hydroelectric dam in the southwestern province of Sichuan, calling a temporary halt to work on the project.
Local residents told RFA's Mandarin service that martial law had been imposed since fighting between local villagers fighting relocation and government-sponsored thugs flared up at the weekend.
"There has been a directive from central government ordering work on the dam to stop temporarily. As soon as they heard about it, everybody went home to their villages. Everyone says that they will do what central government tells them," a resident of Hanyuan County near the dam told RFA's Mandarin service.
"On the day of the fighting and the day after, they beat up a lot of ordinary and innocent people," the woman said.
There has been a directive from central government ordering work on the dam to stop temporarily.
Others said that while the armed crackdown on the 30,000 protesters who tried to block riot police from getting to the dam site had been carried out by People's Armed Police, unidentified gangs had also been beating people.
"There are some people not from around here, thugs, who aren't proper armed police. They go round beating people up," another resident told RFA.
Two people were also reported killed in the unrest which began Friday.
Around 100,000 people will be displaced by the project, which is part of Beijing's much-vaunted "Go West" investment program aimed at boosting economic growth and relieving poverty in China's lagging hinterland.
The official verdict of "turmoil" is the same as that used of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, which were suppressed by People's Liberation Army troops with the loss of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives.
Deputy national police chief Tian Qiyu and head of the State Council secretariat Wang Yang had arrived in the area Monday to hold an emergency meeting on how to deal with rising tensions, according Hong Kong media.
The territory's Sun newspaper said local officials responsible for a heavy-handed crackdown on protesters might face corruption charges.
The intervention from Beijing came after a meeting of provincial leaders designated the protests the work of a small number of people intent on troublemaking.
There are some people not from around here, thugs, who aren't proper armed police. They go round beating people up.
The central government had also ordered an increase in compensation for relocating residents from 320 yuan (U.S. $38) per square meter of living space to 428 yuan (U.S. $51), the paper said.
Local officials and representatives of state-owned enterprises involved in the project had been sent out to do face-to-face ideology work with the farming communities, it said.