11/18/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Crowd confronts Gansu police with iron bars and hoes, torches city hall

The protest was sparked by the forced seizure of homes belonging to about 30 people. More than 60 people are injured, cars are set on fire, and offices are devastated. Street protests are frequent across the country as a result of economic problems and unfair expropriations, backed by a population demanding that their basic rights be respected.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About a 1,000 people attacked a government building in Longnan, (Gansu, northwest China,) clashing with police. They smashed cars, broke windows, furniture and computers, setting several vehicles on fire in the street. After hours of guerrilla warfare the authorities announced that they had successfully imposed strict measures and that the situation was "basically under control,” without providing details.

The protest began when a group of more than 30 people seeking redress for the loss of their homes and land were joined by hundreds of ordinary citizens outside a government office, thus turning the whole thing into a riot

The local government’s website said that “staff and police were beaten by some criminals, leading to the injury of more than 60 officials, police and people.” For this reason police “had no option but to use force to disperse the leaders of the rioting criminals” but were met with a hail of rocks, bricks, and flower pots, and attacked by people with iron bars, axes and hoes”. Some rioters even hijacked a fire truck, but were stopped by police.

Every year mainland China sees tens of thousands of protests, often involving people affected by land grabs by developers in collusion with government officials against which the former have little or no recourse.

The population is getting so frustrated with abusive local authorities that they often spontaneously join protests like the one in Longnan.

In June in Guizhou, Weng'an County, thousands of local residents mobbed government offices, torching the local police headquarters and police vehicles after the suspicious death of a teenage girl, convinced that local authorities wanted to cover up the affair to help the son of a local leader.

Beijing now fears that the global economic crisis might trigger the closure of factories across its industrial heartland, threatening the mainland's growth, and thus spark further protests by laid-off workers.

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