HONG KONG — Thousands of Chinese villagers clashed with riot police after barricading officials and foreign businessmen in a warehouse they said had been built on illegally seized land, Hong Kong media reported on Friday.
Up to 10,000 people blockaded the warehouse entrance in the village of Sanzhou, near the border with Hong Kong, trapping 300 assembled dignitaries, including Guangdong province officials and Hong Kong and foreign businessmen inside, the Apple Daily said of the incident Wednesday.
The protesters let out the foreigners, among them German and British citizens, but held the officials, demanding they be investigated for allegedly selling the property off to developers, the English-language paper said.
Attack dogs, tear gas
Around 1,000 police and riot police, some with attack dogs, arrived to defuse the standoff, but the villagers stood their ground, the paper said.
It was only when police began firing tear gas the following morning that the crowds dispersed, according to witnesses quoted by the paper. The police escorted the officials out.
Hong Kong Cable TV showed footage of protesters throwing rocks and sticks at the riot police as clouds of tear gas blew through the crowd. An unspecified number of villagers were injured, the Ming Pao Daily News reported.
Ten people were arrested, the Apple Daily said.
Villagers interviewed by the paper said of some 9,000 acres of land in Sanzhou, half had been sold off illegally by officials last year.
China has struggled to control rising flare-ups of social unrest in recent years, sparked by issues ranging from corruption, forced layoffs and land grabs without compensation to disparities in wealth between the rich coastal belt and the impoverished hinterland.
On Thursday, more than 100 migrant construction workers rioted at a vocational college they had helped build in the central industrial city of Wuhan over unpaid wages, according to a report carried on state television’s Web site.
The migrants, armed with sticks, flooded into the building, blocking main entrances, knocking down doors and expelling thousands of students from their classrooms and canteen, it said.
The school was forced to halt classes for one day, it said, without mentioning any casualties or arrests.
In January, China’s Ministry of Public Security said there had been 87,000 “public order disturbances, obstructions of justice, gathering of mobs and stirring up of trouble” last year, a 6.6 per cent increase from 2004.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.