Sun, Nov 07, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Dam project sparks riots

UNREST As many as 60,000 people were involved in the events triggered by inadequate compensation for forced relocation, which were not reported in China


Thousands of villagers protesting against the building of a dam in China's southwestern province of Sichuan detained the region's most senior government official for several hours Friday, reports said.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded and detained the secretary of the province's Communist Party of China, Zhang Xuezhong, on Friday as he visited the scene of the protests in Hanyuan county, Taiwan and Hong Kong media reported yesterday.

Two police officers were also killed during the demonstrations, Taiwan's China Times reported citing information published on the Internet that it said was confirmed by anonymous sources in Beijing.

An extra 6,000 soldiers from the People's Armed Police have been sent to the area, the paper said.

The incidents were reported in Taiwan but not, however, in China's state-run media.

An official at the party's provincial headquarters in Chengdu could not confirm the reports but said Zhang had travelled to Hanyuan on Friday.

Around 100,000 people are to be relocated to make way for the Pubugou dam in Sichuan's Hanyuan county, and many are unhappy at the compensation payments offered. Protests against the dam started late last month.

Tempers boiled over on Thursday and Friday last week when villagers said at least one person was killed and scores were injured as tens of thousands of people clashed with armed police.

As many as 10,000 soldiers had been deployed to areas near the hydroelectric dam on Friday, the Hong Kong Apple Daily said. It quoted residents as saying this was the first time that soldiers had been mobilised.

Officials in Sichuan province were not available to comment.

The ruling Communist Party is keen to curb dissent and preserve social stability, but a spate of recent protests and their scale illustrate the extent of grievances in rural China, fuelled by corruption and a growing gap between rich and poor.

The Apple Daily said between 50,000 and 60,000 protesters staged another huge protest on Wednesday, resulting in clashes that left two dead and two injured.

While police did not open fire, they beat back the crowds with batons.

At least seven people were killed and 42 injured in central Henan province after a car accident involving an ethnic Han Chinese and a member of the Hui Muslim minority sparked rioting late last month.

Despite strict government controls, more than 3 million people staged about 58,000 protests across China last year -- a 15 percent jump from the previous year -- according to Outlook magazine, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party.

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