BEIJING – About 2,000 people in a southwestern Chinese city attacked officials and smashed offices and cars last week after a 14-year-old student was beaten up by officials, a witness and a human rights group said on Thursday.
The riot in Bazhong in Sichuan province began after a middle school student tried to help a street vendor who was being harassed by city officials, a hotel worker who saw the incident said.
The officials then turned on the student and beat him up, the witness told Reuters by telephone.
That prompted some 2,000 people, including hundreds of middle school students, to barge into government buildings and attack officials, destroy cars and smash office desks and windows, said the worker, who declined to give her name.
“People were very angry because they (the officials) had gone too far,” she said.
“They beat the young boy so seriously that five or six of his ribs broke,” she said, adding that she heard the boy later died.
Local police reached by telephone confirmed a riot had taken place, but declined to provide details or comment further.
At least 30 people, including police and officials, were injured and 21 people were arrested, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement.
A widening gap between rich and poor, corruption and official abuses of power have fuelled a growing number of demonstrations and riots around the country which are often sparked by seemingly minor issues.
In January, China's Ministry of Public Security said riots, protests and other “mass incidents” were rising, putting the total number of such incidents at 87,000 last year, up 6.6 percent from 2004.
Earlier this month, hundreds of Chinese attacked police and smashed up squad cars after a migrant was apparently beaten up for refusing to pay for a resident's permit.