Villagers clash in southwest China over pollution

BEIJING (Reuters) - Villagers in southwest China fought with workers from a cement plant, official media reported on Wednesday in another reminder that controls imposed ahead of the Olympics have failed to silence all dissent.

Six villagers were wounded and thirteen vehicles damaged in the riot in Yunnan province over a new plant residents of Xingquan Village complained was polluting their water, according to a local newspaper report reprinted by the official Xinhua news agency (

A total of 300 villagers and staff from the Gaoyuan Building Materials Company, owner of the plant, were embroiled in the clash that erupted near midday on Monday. The next morning police took 107 people suspected of fighting “for further investigating and handling,” the report from the Chuncheng Evening News said.

With the Chinese government eager to present a national image of prosperous harmony at the Beijing Olympics starting on Friday, Chinese Communist Party leaders have launched a massive drive to stifle potential protests.

But a ripple of riots in several parts of the country has exposed continued discontent, and local police and officials have long faced intense pressure to quell unrest swiftly and harshly.

Cao Jinming, the government chief of Huaping County where the riot broke out, vowed stability would be restored.

“The criminals involved in this incident must all be dealt with sternly, harshly and swiftly, no matter who they are,” Cao said. He also said villagers’ “reasonable complaints” would be addressed.

The Xingquan residents complained that the company had moved old, polluting production equipment near the village after it was shut down for pollution elsewhere. They blocked the entrance of the company in late July.

In June, thousands of residents rioted and torched police and government buildings in Weng’an, in neighboring Guizhou province, after claims spread that police covered up the rape and murder of a girl.

In another recent clash in Yunnan province, two people were killed when 500 rubber farmers armed with knives fought police, injuring 41 officers.

In the lead-up to the Games, the Chinese government has shown unusual candor about such unrest, reporting these clashes that in the past were not mentioned at all.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani