15 injured, 8 arrested after E. China riot
Police in east China said they have arrested eight forestry security guards and are seeking others after a riot involving almost 200 people last week left 15 injured.
Police also denied reports of deaths in the riot, which broke out just before midnight on Thursday in a dispute over land-use rents paid by a privately owned forestry company in Jiangxi Province.
Twelve villagers were injured, three of them seriously, after about 150 residents of Shuanghong Village, Daduan Town in Tonggu County, confronted around 30 company security guards, said police.
The villagers attacked the offices of the Luhai Wood Industry Company Ltd., destroying or taking away computers, air-conditioners and desks, said police.
About 100 public security bureau police were dispatched to the site and three of them were injured, one seriously, as they tried to restore order, said police. Four police cars were overturned, but they denied reports that any of them were set alight.
All of the injured were being treated in hospital, a police spokesman said.
"The security guards were vicious -- they hit anyone they saw," said Chen Shilin, 57, the most seriously injured. He suffered three knife wounds on his back, four on his head and a broken rib, a doctor said.
Police had posted notices in public places and made appeals on television and radio for the public to come forward with any information on the incident and on any of the security guards who had since disappeared. They said they were seeking no villagers in connection with the violence.
Local government officials had also launched an investigation into the causes of the villagers' grievances and dispatched a medical team to the area, said a county government official.
"Conflicts had happened before when peasants were caught illegally felling trees because they were dissatisfied with the company payments," said Ye Chirong, leader of the firm's 17-strong eastern security squad.
The company had hired about 30 guards altogether and the conflict had involved the western security squad, he said.
Ye said members of his squad had blackmailed villagers who were caught illegally felling trees when they should have reported the offences to the police according to the law.
The Luhai company leased more than 100,000 mu (6,700 hectares) of forest in 2004, paying the peasants 80 yuan for each mu.
Shuanghong was a mountainous village where most of the population of 2,000 rely on forestry for a living, a county government official said.
The villagers became unhappy with the contracted rents and began felling trees after reforms of forest property rights and looser tax policies increased land values, the official said.
After government mediation, the company paid a further 6 yuan (76 U.S. cents) per mu, the official said.
On Monday, the area appeared quiet and the damage had all been cleared up. Part of the plant was preparing to resume production. More than 100 pieces of lost facilities had been returned to the company by villagers.