Thousands of residents have protested in a southeastern Chinese city after a traffic accident, smashing police cars and overturning three police vans, police and residents said yesterday.
The reason why the protest sparked in the city of Fuan in Fujian Province was unclear. One resident said people got angry because police and paramedics took nearly an hour to arrive to help the injured, while a Hong Kong-based human rights group said it was to do with corruption.
However, such protests have become increasingly common in China, and Saturday’s violence is another reminder that the country’s new leadership has to deal with underlying social discontent that often boils over. People are fed up with corruption and high-handed officialdom, pensions that have not kept pace with inflation, and families being forced from their homes to make way for developments.
Residents said police were stopping cars and checking people for driving after drinking on Saturday evening when the accident happened on a main road in Fuan.
Wanting to avoid being tested, a driver in a sedan accelerated away and police started chasing the car, said a resident, who would give only his surname, Lin. About three motorcycles were hit during the chase, Lin said, adding he was not sure who hit them.
“About 10,000 to 20,000 onlookers became angry because police officers and paramedics took nearly one hour to arrive,” Lin said.
He estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 people clashed with police and overturned three police vans.
Photographss carried by online southeastern news sites showed hundreds of people swarming across a wide street with two vans thrown onto their sides. In one photo, three people stand on top of an overturned van.
The official Fuan police microblog yesterday said that a sedan had collided with a car and three motorcycles just before 8pm on Saturday, leaving five people injured.
“The accident made a small number of local people dissatisfied, so they smashed police vehicles and overturned three police vans,” the statement said.
It said authorities “immediately handled the aftermath,” without elaborating.
An initial investigation found that a person with no driving license, surnamed Jiang, had caused the accident and was in police detention, it said.
It said four of the injured were in stable condition and the other one had been discharged from hospital.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said about 10,000 people clashed with police, and that 10 police vehicles had been smashed, three overturned and 20 people injured.
The scenes were triggered by local police corruption, the center said in a faxed statement that did not cite any sources.
It alleged that Fuan’s traffic police were illegally registering license plates to vehicles from outside their jurisdiction for 50,000 yuan (US$8,000) and that residents suspected the sedan had such a license.
Calls to Fuan’s transport bureau rang unanswered. A man at Fuan’s local government propaganda department did not answer questions, but referred to a press release on a local news portal that said the same as the Fuan police microblog.