CHINA> Regional
4 villagers dead in coal mine melee
By Lan Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-22 07:46

Twenty-four suspects have been rounded up by police following a deadly mass melee at a disputed coal mine in North China's Shanxi province, a local official said yesterday.

Four villagers died and 14 were injured when more than 100 armed men, believed to be hired by the coal mine's former owner, descended on the mine last Monday.

A violent fight ensued when they tried to remove the villagers, who had gathered to defend the mine they believe collectively belongs to the Baijiamao village in Luliang city.

The men went after the villagers with broadswords, steel pipes and shovels, while one even drove a truck into a crowd of villagers.

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Villager Hao Tuzhao was beaten to death at the scene and three others - Cheng Huhu, Hao Yusheng and Mu Xiaoming - died in hospital.

Families of the four victims have been given 50,000 yuan ($7,300) in temporary compensation by the Linxian county government.

Every injured victim's family received 5,000 yuan, said an official, who declined to be named.

Shi Jinshan - the former corporate legal representative of Sanxing Coal Coke Company and former owner of the disputed mine - committed suicide after the incident.

Li Baomin, the company's security section chief who directly organized the attack - turned himself in to police on Sunday, the official said. So far 24 suspects involved in the attack are under criminal detention, while the police continue to hunt for more.

Authorities have set up a special team to investigate the case.

More than 100 policemen from neighboring counties are assisting.

A deputy director of Linxian police bureau, the secretary of Linjiaping town Party committee, the mayor and the town's police chief have been suspended from duty.

The deputy director of the Linxian police bureau is the younger brother of Li Baomin, who organized the attack, Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

The disputed coalmine was set up in 1984, and was owned collectively by Baijiamao villagers.

In 1997, it was leased to Shuangyong Coal Company for 50 years.

In 2002, Shuangyong sold the mine to Sanxing Coal Coke Company without the permission of villagers of Baijiamao.

In June, the Taiyuan intermediate people's court ruled that the sale to Sanxing was illegal and the mine should have been owned collectively by the villagers.

On Oct 16, four days after the attack, a higher court decided to uphold the original verdict.