12/13/2005, 00.00
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China scholars condemn shootings in Dongzhou

On an open letter, signed and posted on the internet, the group calls on the government to release a list of the names of the victims, press freedom and a revision of China's political system.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Bbc) - A number of Chinese intellectuals have written an open letter condemning the shooting of protesters in the south. Paramilitary police last week opened fire on villagers protesting over the seizure of land for a power plant in Dongzhou, Guangdong province.

The government has said three people were killed while villagers say that up to 20 were shot dead. The bold letter draws parallels with the violent suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The signed letter, posted on the internet, calls on the government to release a list of the names of those who were killed. It also demands the launch of a special investigation and for journalists to be allowed to report freely on the killings in Dongzhou, near Shanwei.

The statement describes China as a society in crisis, with the rich grabbing what they can from the poor, leading to ever more confrontations. This open letter is a bold move, especially given that it condemns China's political system and says that without democracy such conflicts cannot be solved peacefully.

Discontent is on the rise with official statistics reporting 74,000 protests last year. It is a sign that as people gain more understanding of their rights, that knowledge is bringing them into conflict with corrupt local officials and developers.

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