12/13/2005, 00.00
china
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Nine "instigators" arrested over Dongzhou riots

Police is hunting for suspects in a door-to-door search and is trying to buy  bodies of the victims to cancel evidence of violence against villagers.

Dongzhou (AsiaNews/Scmp) - At least nine villagers from Dongzhou village, near the southern city of Shanwei, are believed to have been arrested for their part in riots last Tuesday in which police opened fire and killed at least three protesters, according to local television reports and villagers.

The arrested villagers were all in their 30s and 40s and included the three alleged instigators - Huang Xijun , Huang Xirang and Lin Hanru - who were described as "wanted criminals" by police. Five others were identified as Huang Xiping, Huang Xiran, Chen Jinsong, Zhang Jinwang and Zhuo Nianfu. Villagers were yesterday unable to confirm the identity of the ninth person arrested.

Villagers said the announcement was broadcast on television, but did not show the faces of the nine. "In the past, they would show the faces of arrested suspects to show what a good job the police were doing in arresting criminals," one villager said. "This time, they did not."

Other villagers said police had stepped up their search for demonstrators who joined last Tuesday's riots by posting photographs of protesters on the street. They claimed more than 100 photographs had been posted by police. "We have lived in fear since the bloody crackdown," one villager said. "Tension has increased every day since the People's Armed Police came.

"Local government officials and police are looking for suspected protesters door-to-door. But I am not sure if they have arrested anyone because all those who took part in the protests have fled or are hiding elsewhere."

Yesterday marked the seventh day since the shooting of the villagers. Following Chinese tradition, family members prayed for the spirits of the dead, expecting them to return home to visit the family for the last time. Near the clash site yesterday, family members continued to gather to mourn for the dead. They burned incense sticks and prayed (see photo).

Relatives of one of the victims, Wei Jin , said they would not agree to the compensation offered by the government, and could not accept the terms offered for the return of his body. They said Shanwei deputy party secretary Wu Gongqiang had told them on Sunday that they would be paid 50,000 yuan compensation and be given Wei's body on the condition that they buried him immediately under the supervision of the authorities.

"They must have tampered with the body," one relative said. "How would we know for sure that it was Wei Jin? If the body had the evidence [of shooting] destroyed, what's the point of having the body?". The family said Mr Wu was "very angry" when his offer was rejected. "He was shouting and banging his fist on the wall," the relative said.

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