Mimi Lau in Guangzhou [email protected]
12 April 2012
South China Morning Post
(c) 2012 South China Morning Post Publishers Limited, Hong Kong. All rights reserved.
Thousands of protesters in Chongqinghave clashed violently with policeover the merger of their district with a neighbouring county.
The clashes began late on Tuesday in an area known asWansheng districtbefore being merged with Qijiang countyto form a new district calledQijiang. Yesterday residents said that all shops had been shutand traffic was ata standstill.
"We have a riot here. It startedyesterday, and Wansheng will not be safe for days. It's best not to come. There are many policemen and residents around, and many are wounded and may even have been killed," an employee of a travel company said.
"It's a mess here. No shops dare to open, and it will remain like this for days until the riot is quelled," this person added.
The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said at least 50 people had been wounded andmore than 1,000 armed police were present. It saidthousands of residents gathered in front of the local government office and on main roads yesterday.
Tear gas was reportedly fired to disperse the angry crowds.
A Chongqing official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, toldAssociated Press that order was being restored yesterday.
The State Council approved the merger in October. Wansheng was to become an economic and technical zone under the new district.
But people commenting on the internet said residents of Wansheng, whose economy ismore developed than that of the former Qijiang county,had been unhappy about the merger and precipitated Tuesday's clashes, fearing their social welfare benefits and economic situation would suffer afterthe merger.
The Chongqing government issued astatementsaying it would safeguard pensions and medical benefits for Wansheng residents. It also said Wansheng would enjoy the same favourable policies asbefore.
Chongqing's mayor, Huang Qifan , visited the newdistrict a few days ago, and saidthe municipal government was keen tobalance and co-ordinate the development of urban and rural areas, the official Chongqing Daily reported.
South China Morning Post Publishers Limited