(Now if we could only get people in the west to see the inequity of modern life. In my opinion, we are too much under the influence of our mass opiates….If there is hope, perhaps it comes from China….cd)
BEIJING (Reuters) – Thousands of residents of a central Chinese city ransacked government offices, trashed cars and attacked a police station after police dogs bit petitioners while breaking up a protest, a resident and media said.
It was the latest in a string of outbursts as discontent grows in the world’s most populous nation over a range of issues including a widening wealth gap and widespread corruption.
About 100 residents from Daye, a city within the larger city of Huangshi, petitioned the Huangshi government on Thursday over a plan to change its status to that of district, Hong Kong’s Wen Wei Po newspaper reported on Monday.
An online bulletin board with postings by people claiming to be witnesses said the protesters felt that downgrading Daye to a district would allow Huangshi to siphon away its funds.
The change in the status of Daye, rich in mineral resources, would “affect the interests of a small number of people” in the city in Hubei province, a police official said by telephone.
But more than a few Daye residents were apparently upset by the pending change. Police ultimately brought out dogs to end the protest and four petitioners were bitten, the newspaper said.
Two days later, on Saturday, a crowd of about 10,000, angered by the dog attack, converged on the Huangshi city government and party offices, smashing windows and property, Wen Wei Po said.
A Huangshi hotel employee who gave only her surname, Li, also said that about 10,000 people participated.
The crowd wrecked more than 10 vehicles, the newspaper said.
The city government in Huangshi, some 600 km (370 miles) west of Shanghai, appealed for calm on Tuesday.
“The city party committee and government call on the entire city to make clear the distinction between right and wrong, keep calm, and not be poisoned and bewitched by a small number of people with ulterior motives,” it said on a government Web site.
Hotel employee Li corroborated the Wen Wei Po’s report on the reason for the protest. Several other residents said the case was too sensitive to comment upon.
Li said there were rumours that people had been paid to take part. “These people were really fierce. I think there must be someone or some group behind it, otherwise the common people would not care about such government affairs,” she said.
But postings on the online bulletin board denied the demonstrators had been hired.
Calls to the Huangshi government office authorised to comment on the violence went unanswered. Other officials declined comment.
Land disputes, corruption, abuse of power and a widening rich-poor gap have led to a rise in the number of protests in recent years. A Hong Kong newspaper quoted the Minister of Public Security as saying there were more than 74,000 last year alone.
The protesters blocked the highway between Huangshi and Wuhan, and stopped traffic on a bridge, the city government said on its Web site, quoting the Huangshi Daily.
The government urged the people not to spread rumours about the incident and called for stability. But it warned it would “resolutely and severely” punish people involved in the attack.