World News

China jails rioters, criticises officials

BEIJING (Reuters) - China handed sentences of up to 16 years in jail to six people for rioting after the suspicious death of a teenage girl, but also criticised the local government for incompetence, state media said on Friday.

Thousands of locals mobbed government offices in Weng’an county, Guizhou in late June. The local police headquarters was torched and police vehicles wrecked after claims spread that authorities had covered up a teenage girl’s death.

Two members of a local gang caught vandalising buildings, burning police vehicles and throwing rocks at officers were given the longest sentences, the official Xinhua agency said.

Another four were sentenced for attacking authorities or “disturbing social order”.

Police had said the teenage girl had killed herself by jumping in a river, but residents said the girl had been raped and murdered by a relative of a senior government official.

More trials are due to take place as the government has detained 59 people.

Stability-obsessed leaders in Beijing are keen to tamp down protests and incidents of “mass unrest” which have been growing in China in recent years as a booming economy has also brought rising corruption, inequality and environmental problems.

The Communist Party Chief of the province, Shi Zongyuan has admitted the area had been hit by protests in the past, over land confiscation and mining rights, Xinhua said.

“He criticised the local authorities for long-standing disregard of rampant crime in the county and incompetence in maintaining public security,” Xinhua added.

The head of the party and the local government in the area have both been sacked.

Shortly after the rioting, which highlighted volatile social clashes, China launched a nationwide campaign to defuse protest ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.

But the government is now battling a new stability problem as the global economic crisis threatens China’s growth and triggers the closure of factories across the industrial heartlands, sparking protests by laid-off and threatened workers.