Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters in China

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 22, 2011 11:08 PM
Riot police fire teargas to disperse protesters in China

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese riot police fired teargas to disperse a throng of protesters in a small town in southern China on Friday, the fourth day of demonstrations against the construction of a power station.

Footage from Hong Kong's Cable TV showed police firing several rounds of teargas in Haimen town, in the southern boom province of Guangdong, sending hundreds of people scuttling away.

The protests in Haimen intensified this week just as people about 130 km (80 miles) further along the coast, in Wukan village, called off a 10-day blockade of their village in a protest against what they said was a land grab by officials.

Protests in China have become relatively common over issues such as corruption, pollution, wages, and land grabs that local-level officials justify in the name of development.

Chinese experts put the number of "mass incidents," as such protests are known, at about 90,000 a year in recent years.

While Communist Party rule is not directly threatened by such incidents of unrest, officials fear they could coalesce into broader, more organized challenges to their power.

Residents of Haimen, a coastal town of about 120,000 people, took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against plans to build a coal-fired power plant after what they complain has been years of heavy air and water pollution from existing power plants in the town.

They rejected an offer to suspend the project late on Wednesday, demanding it be scrapped altogether, and Hong Kong's Mingpao newspaper reported on Friday that they pledged to keep up their action if police did not release detained protesters.

China's state news agency Xinhua had reported that police had detained five people for vandalism on Wednesday evening.

People in China are increasingly unwilling to accept the relentless speed of urbanization and industrialization and the impact on the environment and health.

(Reporting By Sisi Tang; Writing by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Robert Birsel)