07/30/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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Popular protests in China: the Party appeals for "unity and stability"

Beijing (AsiaNews/Scmp) - The authorities issued a stern warning after a series of violent protests across the country, emphasising the Communist Party's leadership and the need to abide by the law.

The People's Daily vowed on Thursday in a front-page commentary that no illegal attempts to disrupt social stability would be tolerated as the country went through a critical stage of reform.

"Unity and stability are the  overarching themes for the country and the people's wishes," it said, noting the source of growing social unrest lay within the contrasting interests of various groups. "However, resolving any such problems must be done in line with the laws and the maintenance of stability. The solution of any problems must rely on the party, the governments, laws, policies and the system.

"Any illegal activities are not to be allowed and will be punished in accordance with laws."

The commentary, also carried by Xinhua and state television, urged local authorities to actively deal with "instability factors" to prevent widespread public dissatisfaction from spreading or turning into violence.

Analysts said the warning was not unexpected, given that several senior officials had talked openly about increasing concern by the central leadership about the riots and protests.

Beijing-based political scientist Liu Junning said the issuing of such a strongly worded commentary showed President Hu Jintao was intent on taking a strong stance to maintain social stability.

Professor Liu noted that several recent "mass incidents" in southern provinces, mainly over compensation disputes after land requisitions, were yet to be settled.

"The People's Daily article can serve as a guideline for local authorities on how to deal with similar mass protests in the future," he said.

The commentary coincided with a report that 2,000 farmers had clashed with hundreds of police last week in a land dispute in Inner Mongolia that left dozens injured.

The number of mass protests has shot up from about 10,000 in 1994 to more than 74,000 last year, security officials report.

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