Riot police quell two separate large protests in China

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Fri Sep 5, 8:07 am ET

BEIJING (AFP) – China dispatched large numbers of soldiers and armed riot police to quell two major protests, officials and a rights group said Friday, in the latest public discontent to rock the communist nation.

In central Hunan province Thursday, 5,000 soldiers and armed police converged on a furious crowd of up to 10,000 demanding money back from an alleged fundraising fraud, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

In a separate protest Thursday, up to 10,000 people gathered around a factory in the eastern coastal city of Ningbo after a young boy was injured apparently after being thrown out of a factory window, the centre said.

The organisation said in both cases violent clashes erupted between angry crowds and authorities, who carried out several arrests and left dozens injured. Local governments did not confirm this.

In Jishou city in Hunan, 50 people were injured in rioting and police arrested 20 people, the rights group said.

The Jishou government said in a statement on its website that armed police were drafted in to disperse the crowd, but failed to mention how many, adding no one was hurt.

Car and rail traffic, which was disrupted during the protests, had returned to normal by Friday, it said.

"The railway station is open today, but yesterday it was blocked by people," said a receptionist at the Tianlu Hotel next to the station in Jishou city.

The local government said the people responsible for the fundraising company that sparked the protests, the Fuda Real Estate Company, were under investigation.

Photos of the unrest were widely available on popular web portals in China and showed a strong armed police presence standing behind shields on railway lines and on the roads.

Meanwhile Thursday in Ningbo, a crowd of 500 people demanding justice for an injured boy had swelled to 10,000 by early evening as demonstrators began pelting the factory with bottles and rocks, the rights group said.

The demonstration turned violent when up to 500 riot police arrived and began clearing the protesters from the factory premises, according to the rights centre.

Up to 20 people were injured in clashes, including a policeman, while police arrested 10 of the rioters, it said.

The government of Xiangshan county confirmed a protest had taken place and accused demonstrators of breaking windows at the factory.

The government insisted that the boy had jumped from a window after workers found him hiding in the factory, adding he was in hospital in stable condition with a broken leg.

Xiangshan police refused to comment on the incident when contacted by AFP.

The protests were the latest in a series of confrontations over social issues in China, where tens of thousands of riots erupt each year, many stemming from grievances over abuse of power, corruption or land grabs.

In June, tens of thousands of people rioted in southwest Guizhou province over claims police had covered up an alleged rape and murder of a teenage girl.