Several senior officials in eastern China were sacked over an environmental dispute that escalated into village riots that allegedly left one elderly protester dead, state media said yesterday.
In April, police armed with clubs and shields used tear gas to break up a rally staged by farmers against the construction of a chemical factory in Huashui township, Dongyang city in Zhejiang Province.
The protests turned into riots after an elderly protester was allegedly run over and killed by a police car. Up to 80 police and other officials were injured in the incident, according to witnesses at the time.
Xinhua news agency said yesterday that local communist party secretary Tang Yong and mayor Chen Fengwei had been sacked, and that an unspecified number of officials responsible for the incident were also punished.
"The provincial government set up a special team to investigate the accusations of pollution, and shut down those chemical plants thought responsible," it said.
An industrial estate was built in Huashui in 2001 and local people were against the construction of another chemical factory on the site.
They claim factories operating there spew toxic waste and emissions into the water supply, which had resulted in ruined crops and deformities among new-born babies.
China has witnessed a slew of violent demonstrations over the past twelve months, often the result of large-scale construction that is part of the country's economic boom.
Although land and environmental disputes are common, moves by authorities to sack officials for their failure to address problems are still relatively rare.
The move in Dongyang is seen as a concession to placate villagers' anger in the light of the central government's repeated calls for harmony and its rising fear of social instability.