CHINA> Regional
Police defend riot measures in SW China protests
Updated: 2008-07-01 22:28

GUIYANG, Guizhou  -- Public security officials on Tuesday defended police actions in dealing with violent protests in southwest China at the weekend, saying they showed "great restraint".

However, more than 150 people, including more than 100 police, were injured in Saturday's riots in Weng'an county, Guizhou Province, but no deaths were reported, said Wang Xingzheng, provincial public security department spokesman.

"Most of them were slightly injured," Wang told a press conference on Tuesday evening.

The police, who were keeping order, had showed "great restraint" in face of the attacks with bricks and water bottles, he said.

The incident began when about 300 people, including some who were dissatisfied with a police report on the death of a 17-year-old girl, started to gather at about 4 p.m. on Saturday at the county government and public security bureau.

The police report said Li Shufen, an eighth grader, had drowned herself. However, her family insisted she was raped and killed.

The crowd swelled and reached as many as 30,000 people at one point.Eventually, they charged into the police building, smashed office facilities, burnt vehicles and later some of them broke into the building of the county government and set about destroying facilities there.

The chaos lasted almost seven hours and subsided on Sunday morning.

The provincial Communist Party chief Shi Zongyuan on Monday called for local authorities to handle the incident properly. "We must put maintaining social harmony and stability on the top of our agenda," he said.

The incident started from a simple cause, but was used and incited by a few people with ulterior motives, and some criminals took part, Shi said.

Shi called for strict punishments for the organizers, ringleaders and key rioters, but an verbal caution for minor offenders.

There must be deep-seated reasons beyond the death of the girl behind the violent protest, he said. Disputes over mines, immigration, relocation of residents for construction projects and other issues had not been given due attention for quite a long time.

He criticized local officials, saying they had shortcomings that dissatisfied residents. "We must draw a lesson from the problems exposed."