Thousands Riot in China
Thousands Riot in China

BEIJING—Thousands of Chinese farmers and laid-off workers rioted in central China, attacking police and smashing squad cars, a local official said on Monday, the latest in a string of violent demonstrations.

Nine police cars were burnt during the riot on Friday in the central province of Hunan in which 20,000 people clashed with about 1,000 police armed with guns and electric cattle prods, a local official told Reuters.

“They did it because they were not satisfied with some government behaviour,” the official, surnamed Tan, said by telephone from the district of Lingling, which belongs to the Hunan city of Yongzhou.

“They were also unhappy about official corruption,” Tan said without elaborating.

The overseas human rights Web site Boxun (www.boxun.com) said the riot was sparked by dissatisfaction with rising public transport costs. The site, which is critical of China, is blocked on the mainland.

The Hunan official said the riot had been quelled and that scores of the rioters were arrested. The government was tracking down the organisers, she said.

Both police and rioters had been injured in the violence, and some of the rioters were sent to hospital, but none was seriously hurt, the official added.

A widening gap between rich and poor, corruption and official abuses of power have fuelled a growing number of demonstrations and riots around China, often sparked by seemingly minor issues.

The government has said the number of “mass incidents” in the country–a term that includes protests, petitions and demonstrations–was about 23,000 last year.

Efforts to reduce inequality and sources of discontent have been a theme of government efforts to improve the livelihoods of its 750 million farmers.

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