BEIJING Thousands of Chinese took to the streets of a southwestern town on Thursday, with some smashing police vehicles in the latest protest by citizens angered by the rough handling of local officials, according to news reports.
The protest in Qianxi County, Guizhou province, was the latest of thousands of brief, local riots and demonstrations that happen in China every year, and like many recent outbreaks this one pitted residents against "urban administration" officials charged with enforcing law and order.
A "clash broke out between urban administration officials and the owner of an illegally parked vehicle, drawing in thousands of onlookers and sparking incidents of crowds smashing law enforcement vehicles and blocking roads," the website of China National Radio (cds.cnr.cn) reported on Friday.
"Crowds turned over the vehicle of the urban administration staff and attacked police who came to quiet down the situation," the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The rioters smashed ten vehicles and torched another five, said Xinhua, adding that 10 police officers and guards were injured. The police arrested 10 people suspected of attacking the vehicles.
Canyu, an overseas Chinese website (www.canyu.org) that often reports on protests, showed photos it said were taken in Qianxi, showing thousands of residents crowding a square in the town, surrounding overturned police vehicles. Reuters could not verify if those photos were reliable.
A riot in southern China in June was also triggered by rancor between residents and local law-and-order officials, and researchers say such explosive but usually brief outbursts are a hallmark of the unrest testing the controls of the ruling Communist Party. [ID:nL3E7HU0B0]
Radio Free Asia, a news service based in Washington D.C., reported the clash in Qianxi broke out after officials tried to confiscate an electric-powered bicycle, injuring the female owner.
China saw almost 90,000 such "mass incidents" of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.
That is an increase from 2007, when China had over 80,000 mass incidents, up from over 60,000 in 2006, according to an earlier report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Like many other recent protests and riots, news of this one spread on China's Internet, especially on Sina's popular Weibo microblogging site, reported Radio Free Asia.
But Chinese authorities are wary of any discussion of such discontent spreading, and by Friday morning, searches on Weibo for Qianxi County and even Guizhou province were largely blocked on Weibo, with a message saying the "relevant legal regulations" prevented showing the search results.
Users nonetheless posted comments, and some drew sardonic parallels with recent riots in London and other English cities.
"In fact, China has riots more serious than England's every week," said one Weibo comment.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley and Sally Huang; Editing by Ken Wills and Miral Fahmy)