Chinese state media yesterday published the names of three villagers who were killed by police during a protest over the seizure of land for a power plant.
Rights groups and activists had been calling for the government to publish a list of those killed in the Dec. 6 shootings in Dongzhou, a village northeast of Hong Kong in Guangdong Province. The government says three people were killed, while residents put the toll at up to 20.
The Guangzhou Daily newspaper said that the three men killed by police were 26-year-old Lin Yidui, 35-year-old Jiang Guangge and 31-year-old Wei Jin. Eight people were injured, the paper said, but did not give their names.
The paper said the information was based on an interview on Saturday with a spokesman for the local Shanwei City Government. His name was not given.
Villagers say the protest erupted over complaints that residents received little or no compensation for land taken by the government for construction of a power plant.
The paper said that social order had been restored in the village and that construction on the power plant had resumed, according to the official.
Chinese media coverage of the incident has been limited to a few articles published by the official Xinhua news agency and local Guangdong papers.
The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has said the government instructed media to only use Xinhua reports on the incident and ordered Web sites to remove any postings about the event in discussion forums.
The Shanwei City Government spokesman told the Guangzhou Daily that 1,654 villagers had been offered compensation payments in November last year but that some had refused.
In September this year, protesters began blocking workers from entering the power plant construction site, prompting officials to confront them on Dec. 6, the official said. The protesters were armed with knives, wooden clubs and molotov cocktails, he said.
"The incident of Dec. 6 was a serious violation of law in which a handful of people instigated beating, smashing and burning and launched a violent attack against police officers trying to carry out their law enforcement duties," the spokesman was quoted as saying.
He said Shanwei's police commander "was forced to fire warning shots" in an effort to subdue the crowd and that the darkness and chaos were to blame for the killings.
The violence was the deadliest clash yet in a series of confrontations throughout China between police and villagers who are angry over land seizures for construction of factories, shopping malls and other projects.
Chinese leaders have shown unusual concern about Dongzhou, detaining the commander whose forces opened fire and promising to deal with local grievances.
The Guangzhou Daily said the Shanwei spokesman blamed three villagers for organizing the protests and identified them as Huang Xijun, Huang Xirang and Lin Hanru. The three men were detained by police on Dec. 11, it said.
The men used illegal radio broadcasts to organize attacks on guards at the power plant and blocked the road to the plant for 84 days, according to the paper.
Huang Xijun ran for director of the village party committee in June this year, the paper said.
He used firecrackers to explode the ballot box, the paper said, allegedly because he did not get enough votes to win the election.