A teenage girl was beaten to death in weekend clashes between protesting villagers and police wielding electric batons, media reported yesterday.
Police reportedly clubbed the girl during a demonstration on Saturday, when hundreds of villagers from Sanjiao, Guangdong Province, rallied outside government offices and blocked a highway to protest allegedly inadequate compensation for appropriated land.
The parents of the girl, her age given as either 13 or 15, have been paid hundreds of thousands of yuan to say she had died of a heart attack, the South China Morning Post and other Hong Kong newspapers said, citing unidentified villagers.
Authorities in the area have refused to comment on the reported death, although the official Xinhua news agency issued a rare dispatch blaming the villagers for inciting the clashes, and denying that officers used violence.
Tensions remained high yesterday in Panlong village, although there was no repeat of the unrest seen over the weekend.
The Zhongshan city government, which administers the area where the protests erupted, said it had dispatched over 100 officials to respond to villagers' demands, and that relative peace had been restored.
"After patient efforts to channel the dissatisfaction, beginning with the morning of Jan. 15, villagers stopped blocking traffic on the highway and the orderly handling of the entire matter is proceeding," the government said in a statement.
A local resident also confirmed yesterday that there had been no repetition on Monday night of the weekend's violence, but did not rule out further protests if talks with the government proved to be unsatisfactory.
"No-one protested last night," the villager, who wished to remain anonymous, said by phone. "But there is talk of bigger protests to come."
Police remained at barricades going into the village, checking identifications and frisking people entering and leaving, he said.
In its statement, the government pledged to "actively respond to reasonable demands of villagers and appropriately resolve social contradictions."
"The city police has called on the villagers to act rationally and to seek to resolve their legitimate demands through legal channels," it said.
However the statement also cautioned villagers to remain calm and not to believe in, or spread, rumors.
The clashes erupted due to anger over inadequate compensation the government paid to villagers for farmland that was seized to sell to factories and other investors.
Several villagers said that up to 60 people were injured when police armed with anti-riot gear indiscriminately attacked people who were protesting on a highway.
"They didn't care if you were elderly or young, big or small. They beat whoever they saw. They were like mad dogs," a man, who witnessed the violence from his rooftop, said by phone on Monday.
Saturday's incident came a month after authorities fired into a crowd of villagers in Dongzhou, also in Guangdong Province, reportedly killing 20.