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China orders evening curfew and street closure to curb unrest after new riots

Posted by Author on November 21, 2008

By Ian Ransom, Reuters, Wednesday, November 19, 2008 –

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has told police to ensure stability amid the global financial crisis, while thousands of people attacked police and government offices in a northwestern city in unrest triggered by a plan to resettle residents.

After decades of solid economic growth, China is battling an unknown as falling demand for its products triggers factory closures, sparks protests and raises fears of popular unrest.

Rioting involving thousands of people exploded on Monday in Wudu, in Gansu province’s poverty-stricken region of Longnan, where 1.8 million people were made homeless by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake.

The unrest, which flared up again on Tuesday, saw rioters invade local government offices, loot equipment and torch police cars, though the incident appeared to be related to a local dispute rather than the slowing economy.

The Longnan rioting follows a number of strikes by taxi drivers and labor protests in the country’s major export regions, where thousands of factories have closed in recent months, prompting fears the global financial crisis could stir wider popular unrest.

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu said police “should be fully aware of the challenge brought by the global financial crisis and try their best to maintain social stability,” according to the China Daily.

State media said the riots were triggered by a scheme to move the government headquarters to a neighboring county, which would force local residents to relocate, and had prompted fears from some residents about future housing and livelihoods.

Youtube footage showed police struggling to restore order while being pelted with stones. Pictures on Chinese web portals showed columns of armed riot police sheltering beneath shields.

An uneasy calm had fallen on Wudu on Wednesday, after authorities ordered an evening curfew and closed major streets and local businesses, according to local residents, who said heavy-handed police had inflamed the riots.

“No one’s rioting today, the streets are all closed … People will be snatched if they go out after 10 p.m. at night, so no-one dares to go out,” a hotel worker who declined to leave his name told Reuters by telephone.

“Actually, there were only a few thousand petitioners, but police fired tear gas which made women and children sick. This made the others angry,” he said. …… (more from Reuters: China seeks to curb unrest after new riots)

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