11/21/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing wants to implement more social justice, to prevent protests

A member of the Politburo says that social problems and injustices must be resolved, to prevent protests. But police presence will be increased in rural areas. Meanwhile, in Gansu, the governor reassures demonstrators that he will hear their requests, but the police are arresting them.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The government admits that in order to prevent public protests, there must be action on lawsuits, guaranteeing more social justice and respect for civil rights. Meanwhile, in Longnan (Gansu), the authorities are seeking dialogue with demonstrators, but are also carrying out arrests.

At a conference yesterday, Zhou Yongkang, the former minister of public safety and since 2007 one of the nine members of the Politburo of the permanent committee, urged that "we must do whatever we can to help rural residents solve their problems and improve their livelihoods. By doing so, we can nip [unrest] in the bud." But he went on to say that "we have to strengthen public security forces in rural areas, carry out crackdowns on crimes in high-risk places, and punish those who endanger our social stability."

Protests are growing in the country, especially in rural areas, with thousands of people taking to the streets against social injustices of all kinds, often caused by the widespread corruption among local authorities. The situation risks exploding, with millions of migrant workers who are losing their jobs because of the global recession and the decrease in exports, and who risk finding themselves with no means of support.

In this context, Xu Shousheng, the governor of Gansu, has met with representatives of citizens of Wudu expelled from their homes in 2006, who have not yet received the new homes that were promised to them. Their protests unleashed public demonstrations in Longnan. The police intervened violently against the first groups of people, but this only provoked two days of harsh conflict, with thousands of people (2,000 according to the police, 20,000 according to local sources) who destroyed parked cars (in the photo) and public buildings, injuring 71 police officers and causing 5 million yuan in damage.

Xu assured the citizens that Beijing plans extensive investment in the area, and that their requests will be heard. But in the meantime, the police have arrested 30 demonstrators, and many of the websites covering the clashes have been blocked.

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