Forced evictions trigger massive protest in China

AFP , BEIJING
Monday, Jun 25, 2007

Thousands of protesters clashed with police in eastern China last week after security teams moved in to forcefully relocate families involved in a housing dispute, a rights group said yesterday.

Residents refusing to move out of their homes threw gasoline bombs at the security forces, igniting riots on Wednesday in Shengzhou City, Zhejiang Province, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Up to 20,000 protesters and onlookers were at the scene of the riots that left at least five police cars smashed up, it said.

About 20 people were injured in the clashes involving "hundreds" of police and security personnel, while six rioters were arrested as fire engines were called in to disperse the crowd, it said.

Police in Shengzhou refused to comment on the unrest yesterday, but a local government official denied that clashes had broke out.

"The police did not call in fire engines to disperse the crowd and tear gas was not used," the official at the Shengzhou City office said. "The crowd dispersed on their own."

A news report on the Southern Daily Web site said a 90-year-old woman who refused to leave a four-story building had hurled gasoline bombs from the top of the building as security personnel and wrecking teams came to destroy it.

Photos on the Internet showed the building decked out with Chinese flags and protest banners that called for "just compensation" and cited China's property law which was passed by the National People's Congress in March.

Up to 20 people were living in tents on the roof of the building, as they protested its imminent destruction to make way for a new road.

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