Beijing: Security forces mobilized to suppress protests in China`s east, a monitoring group and eyewitness said Thursday, in the latest bout of unrest roiling parts of the country.
The unrest in Taizhou broke out Tuesday after the head of a local village government got into a physical confrontation with gas station employees during negotiations over land compensation fees the gas station`s owner was to pay villagers, the reports said.
Within hours, hundreds of fellow residents of Rishanfen village had surrounded the gas station, blocked an adjacent airport expressway, and seized a man who had struck the village head, said the eyewitness, the owner of a nearby garment factory.
Riot police then deployed, leading to scuffles with villagers, said the factory owner, who declined to be identified by name for fear of repercussions. Reinforcements arrived on Wednesday and officers detained about a dozen people, including the chief, other village officials and anyone found with images of the protest on their mobile phones, the man said.
Calls to police and government offices in Taizhou rang unanswered or were answered by people who said they had no information about the protests and wouldn`t give their names.
As with many of the protests across China, the Taizhou incident appears rooted in disagreements over compensation to villagers for land seized for development.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said villagers hard pressed by soaring inflation had been hoping for an increase in payments from businesses in the industrial park, including the gas station. The factory owner, however, said many believed that compensation offered by the gas station had been embezzled by the former head of Rishanfen, who is now the local Communist Party secretary — a much more powerful position.
The incident was third large-scale outburst of unrest in recent days, mainly fueled by anger over abuses by authorities.
Police arrested at least 25 people following weekend rioting in Xintang in the manufacturing powerhouse province of Guangdong. Security forces there clashed with migrant workers from the southwestern province of Sichuan.
On Wednesday, a woman was arrested for spreading rumors of the death of a migrant blamed for fueling the violence, local police said on their micro-blog.
Last week, residents of Lichuan in the central province of Hubei laid siege to government offices following the death in custody of a local city council member. A number of local government officials have been fired or placed under investigation over the death in an attempt to appease public anger.
Though the triggers for the events are different, most are driven by common resentments over social inequality, abuse of power and suppression of legitimate grievances.
China`s Communist Party leadership has reacted nervously to the turmoil, especially after popular uprisings began sweeping the Middle East and North Africa this year. In recent months, hundreds of government critics have been questioned, arrested or simply disappeared.