09/06/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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"Harmonious society" in crisis: police, demonstrators clash in Jishou and Ningbo

Last Thursday, in two different provinces of the country, thousands of people engaged in violent clashes with security forces. At the origin of the protests are the continuing episodes of corruption and abuse perpetrated by local governments and private companies, which often go unpunished.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Thousands of officers and demonstrators clashed during two different protests in the Chinese provinces on Thursday, September 4. The first took place in Jishou (in Hunan province), where 10,000 people poured into the streets of the city to call for the restitution of money taken "fraudulently" by a fundraising company. The second took place in the coastal city of Ningbo, in eastern China, during which 10,000 demonstrators attacked a factory, calling for justice for a young man who, according to witnesses, was thrown from one of its windows, suffering numerous injuries.

According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, both protest demonstrations led to violent conflicts between the exasperated people and security forces that intervened to calm the revolt. Unconfirmed reports from Jishou say there have been 50 people wounded, and 20 arrested; the official news agency Xinhua reports that "roads and railways were blocked" by citizens exasperated over the "failure to give back their money". The local government has admitted that the police intervened to disperse the crowd, but does not confirm that anyone was injured during the clashes.

In Ningbo, the protests broke out following the injury of a young man at one of the many factories in the coastal city: according to demonstrators, the young man was thrown from a window; government sources maintain that he had hidden inside the building, and had jumped out of the window to escape the workers who discovered him there. The incident gave rise to a protest in which 500 people participated, eventually reaching 10,000 according to some sources. When the police arrived, violent clashes broke out, leading to the wounding of 20 people and the arrest of 10.

These days, China is being rocked by hundreds of protests and popular revolts; the people are exasperated over the continuing episodes of corruption among members of the communist party and of the local governments, in spite of the slogans proclaimed by President Hu Jintao, lauding the "harmonious society" and economic development for all. Last June, the province of Guizhou was the theater of a genuine popular revolt, in which thousands of people called for justice in the death of a young woman; the demonstration met with bloody repression from the police and from riot squads of the Chinese army.

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