Ten thousand clash with police in south-east China

Large-scale protest in Gangkou Town, Jiangxi Province on July 5, 2010.
Large-scale protest in Gangkou Town, Jiangxi Province on July 5, 2010.

Villagers in China’s southeastern Jiangxi Province, upset over police brutality, relocation and corrupt local officials, have staged a large-scale, violent protest.

Submitted by Ed on July 12, 2010

Thousands of enraged citizens armed with bricks and stones, smashed town hall windows and overturned police cars in response to police beating two women petitioners into a coma. The women were part of a group protesting forced relocation.

Mr. Yu, a local resident, said that about 10,000 people witnessed the police beating the protesters. The residents picked up bricks from a nearby construction site and threw them at the town hall. The windows were broken and authorities mobilized 300 armed police. Residents then flipped the police cars over and smashed 18 of them.

Earlier in the day, residents from Dongxia Village, Gangkou Town, decided to go to Beijing to file a complaint against the local government forcing them to relocate. Local police mobilized 30 police cars to stop the villagers who were on their way to Beijing, and brought them back to the town hall.

Yu said, “The county party chief and the police bureau called the provincial leader and had over 100 policemen arrest us at the border of Gangkou Town in an attempt to stop us from going to Beijing. The county secretary promised that he would properly handle the case as long as we did not go to Beijing.”

But when they all got back to the town hall, the officials did not want to discuss things with the villagers. The county chief, secretary, and chief of the public safety bureau got into their cars and tried to get away. Petitioners, including one of the women who is now in a coma, then stopped the county chief’s car and asked to talk to him. The chief ordered the police officers to remove the woman.

Yu said, “It was a ghastly scene. The officers fiercely beat and kicked the woman. Many villagers laid down in front of the car to stop it from passing. In the end, two women were seriously injured. The officers grabbed the women by their hair and dragged them to the roadside. The officers beat the people relentlessly and injured about 20 of them.”

The two women are still in a coma in hospital at the time of the report.

Yu said, “It’s been four days now and they have not woken up. They do not even have involuntary reflexes. There are also two men with severe trauma and one slightly injured.”

When this reporter called the Gangkou Town government, a staff member said that they were taking care of the problem, but denied that the police beat and arrested any protesters.

Forced Relocation
Relocation of villagers was ordered by local authorities because villagers had expressed concern over health issues arising from pollution by a local tungsten mining company.

In the past several years, due to the rising price of tungsten, the Xianglushan Tungsten mining company in Xiushui County has continued to expand. Waste water from mining has polluted nearby rivers. The Jiangxi Province environmental safety department also found that the pile of tungsten ore tailings was likely to collapse and cause safety hazards.

The creek running through Dongxia village has been giving out a bad odor from the pollution. Many residents have skin ulcers, and livestock has died after eating and drinking the polluted grass and water. After the villagers expressed their concerns, the local government decided to move them to Gangkou town and Xiushui County.

The town would only compensate each person with 2,500 yuan (US$360) for the relocation. The villagers felt the compensation is not enough and have been negotiating with the authorities, but the two sides have not reached an agreement. In order to force the villagers to move, the county government kidnapped the son of the protest leader and threatened the leader in order to make him move.

According to the villagers, the Xianglushan Tungsten Co. had already allotted the funds for the villagers to move, but the county officials embezzled the money. That’s when the villagers decided to go to Beijing to appeal.

Forced relocations are commonplace in China and have become a source of anger and unrest, especially because of the inadequate compensation generally given to the landowners.