Thousands protest flood response in Chinese city

AP News
Posted: Oct 16, 2013 2:59 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Thousands of people protested in an eastern Chinese city over the government's response to recent floods, some of them throwing bricks and clashing with police, leading to arrests, an official newspaper said Wednesday.

An unspecified number of people at Tuesday's protest in the Zhejiang province city of Yuyao were arrested for "radical acts" including throwing bricks at police and flipping over government vehicles, the official English-language Global Times reported.

Residents were angered over how the government responded to the area's worst flooding in decades. Floods caused by a typhoon earlier this month killed at least six people in Zhejiang, deprived 11 million people of water and power, and caused $2 billion in damages to homes, business, and infrastructure in Yuyao and nearby Ningbo and Shanghai, the government said.

Liu Fuquan, manager of the Xiaofeiyang Restaurant, said his electricity had been cut for a week, causing 100,000 yuan ($16,000) in losses to spoiled food. He said he knew about the protest but did not participate.

"All I could get during the first three days was a single bowl of rice porridge," Liu said. "The only thing we could do was to save ourselves."

Such protests, termed "mass incidents" by the government, occur regularly around China, sparked by traffic accidents to industrial pollution and official abuses of power. Outrage is often exacerbated by perceptions of special treatment for the rich and powerful and by distant and unresponsive autocratic leaders appointed from above by the ruling Communist Party.

The threat of violence has prompted massive fiscal outlays for the police and other internal security measures, spending on which now exceeds the defense budget, the world's second largest after that of the U.S.

Photos from Yuyao posted to various Chinese websites showed protesters smashing vehicles and attacking city offices. Some were bleeding from the head after apparently being clubbed by riot police who were shown massed in their hundreds in front of city hall.

City officials on Wednesday either said they had no information or did not answer phones. The protest was ignored by local Chinese-language media and the Yuyao government's website, which instead was filled with glowing reports on the city's flood response work.

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However, the head of the Zhejiang provincial Communist Party Organization Department, Cai Qi, called on his microblog for a rational response to the flooding, and said officials had been working all-out to deal with the disaster.

"Who says the leaders have been useless?" Cai wrote. "The leaders and cadres have been working their hardest to deal with this unprecedented disaster and provocations resulting in radical talk aren't in anyone's interests."

It wasn't clear who, if anyone, had led the protests, news of which had been scrubbed from the Chinese Internet by government censors.

However, Yuyao residents reached by telephone said the situation in the city was calm on Wednesday. They said they were still waiting for government officials to visit them to discuss financial assistance.