Villagers in central China clash with police

BEIJING – More than 1,000 villagers clashed with police in central China following a land dispute with construction workers that left one person dead, reports said Thursday.
Fighting initially broke out Tuesday between villagers in Liling city in Hunan province and construction workers at a building site in the area, according to Radio Free Asia, the U.S.-funded station.

A provincial newspaper said the villagers were trying to stop the workers from building on land they say they hadn’t been properly compensated for.

A 58-year-old man was killed and another six people were seriously injured in the fight, which involved sticks and bricks, Radio Free Asia reported. Villagers then took the man’s body to the city government offices to protest.

A statement from the Hong-Kong based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said more than 1,000 villagers marched on the city government offices, where they clashed with hundreds of police and overturned two police cars. The statement said 20 people were injured in the day’s fighting and one person was rumored to have died.

The Radio Free Asia report said the protest continued into Wednesday.

Video secretly recorded by a villager and sent to Associated Press Television News via the Internet showed the body of a middle-aged man in a red shirt lying on a door ripped from its hinges inside the lobby of a government office building.

Officials and clerks can be seen standing around silently while the men’s relatives wail and throw themselves on the body. Security guards linger nearby, but no one apparently tries to remove the body or the villagers in the two-minute-long piece of footage.

Land disputes are common in China, where local governments often sell plots to construction companies with little compensation for the original residents. The conflict in Liling highlights concerns among China’s leadership that the cooling economy, and the accompanying loss of jobs, could affect social order.

The provincial newspaper, the Xiaoxiang Morning Post, reported on the initial bust up at the construction site, saying six people were seriously injured, but made no mention of the clash with police.

The Liling city government and public security bureau could not be reached for comment Thursday.

posted on DossierTibet, May 8, 2009

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