11/10/2004, 00.00
CHINA
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In Sichuan farmers still protesting against dam construction

Demonstrations are on the rise. A thousand industrial workers go on strike in Guangzhou demanding a weekly day of rest.

Dashu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – "We will start holding protests again if the construction of the project is resumed," residents of Hanyuan County (Sichuan province) said. The last few weeks saw local residents involved in violent clashes with the police over the government's plan to force them off their land to build a dam.

A villager from Dashu Township yesterday reported that the central government had ordered a halt to the Pubugou project, after riots last week left two villagers dead.

The villager, surnamed Ji, quoted government sources as saying work on the project would not resume until disputes over the relocation plan were fully resolved. In the meantime, authorities in Chengdu, Yaan and Hanyuan counties refused to verify the information.

"We do not want to be confrontational," Mr Ji said, "Too many villagers showed up wanting to complain about the negative impact the hydroelectric project would have on their lives".

He said there was still a heavy police presence in the county because senior central government officials were visiting.

As many as 100,000 farmers are being forced to move to make way for the project. They are dissatisfied with the government's compensation offer.

Li Guifu was among the first to lose his farmland. "I have nothing now," he said. "My family can only make a living by working in coal mines."

Violent clashes broke out late last month when villagers from nearby townships tried to stop the damming of the Dadu River at the site of the Pubugou project. Up to 600 police intervened against some 30,000 demonstrators. Three people died in the clashes and many more were injured.

China is being increasingly affected by social unrest. Strife is not however limited to the countryside. About a thousand workers from a Guangzhou factory rallied outside the plant on Sunday demanding at least one day off a week.

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