08/19/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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Village residents and police clash

Around 1,500 villagers clashed with 500 armed policemen in a bid to secure the release of a youth imprisoned after accusing the village head of corruption. Beijing is launching anti-terror troops to rein in revolts.

Taishi (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Violent clashes continue between citizens and public security forces, the armed branch of the local government. Around 1,500 residents of the village of Taishi in the southern province of Guangdong clashed with some 500 armed police on Tuesday 16 August.

Everything started with the detention of 22-year-old Feng Weinan, a village leader. Feng called on the government to immediately remove the village head who was accused of corruption. After he had denounced the village head, Feng was apprehended by several policemen in plain clothes, forced to get off his motorbike and dragged away in a van. As the van drove off, residents stopped three government cars which tried to follow it: one of the cars was ferrying the vice secretary of the municipality and one of the district public security chiefs.

The Taishi inhabitants called for Feng's release several times but their pleas were unheard, so they pressed ahead with their blockade of the government cars. The local government sent more than 500 armed men to disperse the crowd and the clashes resulted in a dozen or so people being wounded. Two were critically injured, including Feng Zhen a woman of around 80 years who suffered three broken ribs. And some seven residents – including a member of the Communist Party – were arrested and forbidden from receiving visitors, including relatives.

"Villagers are angry. The government not only did not help us solve problems but it turned around to suppress us," said Feng Qiusheng, one of those leading the protest. The information secretary of the propaganda bureau overseeing Panyu district which includes Taishi, said he had been out of town and knew nothing about the hostilities.

Increasing popular discontent and ever more frequent public demonstrations have prompted the Beijing government to set up special "anti-terrorism" police squads in 36 of the country's key cities. Protest rallies in China have shot up from 10,000 in 1994 to more than 74,000 in 2004 which involved 3.67 million people, according to public security statistics.

The Public Security Ministry backs the decision to improve police capacity "in new circumstances". For now, the only city which has a new unit – composed of 500 men – is Zhengzhou in the central province of Henan although many say formation of such a squad is practically a certainty for Shanghai and Beijing too.

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