Police arrest 25 in southern China after clash

AP News
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Posted: Jun 11, 2011 11:19 PM
Police arrest 25 in southern China after clash

Police said Sunday that 25 people in southern China were arrested after a clash between street vendors and security forces, the second such recent incident highlighting government difficulties controlling widening social unrest.

The arrests were made following a dispute between a migrant couple, who are street vendors, and security forces in Xintang town near Guangzhou city on Saturday night, police said. Such disputes are common, and bystanders often side with the vendors and accuse police of heavy-handed tactics.

A statement posted on the Guangzhou police website said "troublemakers" blocked traffic and damaged vehicles, forcing police to "adopt measures to prevent the incident from further escalating."

It did not say what caused the initial clash in an area full of garment factories and migrant workers.

Also Saturday, paramilitary police patrolled the streets of Lichuan in Hubei province in central China following a riot over the death of city councilman in police custody.

Thousands of people laid siege to government offices in Lichuan on Thursday, throwing bottles, eggs and other objects and tussling with police, according to eyewitnesses reached by phone and accounts posted online.

The riot prompted police to bring in reinforcements from the paramilitary People's Armed Police backed by armored vehicles, said residents reached by phone who refused to give their names for fear of reprisals.

Protesters, including family members, were demanding punishment of those involved in the June 4 death of local People's Congress deputy Ran Jianxin.

Relatives say Ran was beaten to death while undergoing interrogation and have circulated photos on the Internet purporting to show bruises covering his body. Though technically illegal, beatings and torture are believed to be routinely applied by police and investigators who rely overwhelmingly on confessions to obtain convictions.

Ran, 49, had been placed under investigation last November for allegedly taking bribes from construction contractors and was formally arrested and taken into custody on May 26. Ran's family say his arrest and subsequent beating was payback for his leveling allegations of corruption against top city officials.

"Ran's cousin said he found signs of wounds and bruises on Ran's body at the hospital and believed that they were signs of an 'unnatural death,'" the official Xinhua News Agency said in a brief account of the incident.

The incidents are signs of widespread distrust of the authorities and frustration with corruption, favoritism and lack of responsiveness to common grievances such as illegal land grabs.

Last month, a man described as upset over a land dispute with the government set off three bombs in the southern city of Fuzhou, killing himself and two others and stirring a public angry at official corruption and indifference.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report.