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Wednesday, November 03, 2004


PRC puts down regional demos and ethnic fighting

The Chinese government is playing down the ethnic aspect of a large-scale protest in central Henan province in which seven people were killed, 42 people were injured and 18 arrested. Beijing, in a rare move on Monday, confirmed the clash in Zhongmou county in the provincial capital Zhengzhou.

"China is a country with many minorities, but we have a healthy and good policy towards them. So this kind of problem is only a single incident, just between the villages. It should not be exaggerated. This is a problem that happened in China, so it's not necessary for foreign countries to know about it," foreign ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue told a news conference quoted by international media.

According to reports, a traffic dispute involving an ethnic Han Chinese and a member of the Hui Muslim minority sparked rioting by some 5,000 people last Wednesday. The clash continued until Sunday.

Central government authorities reportedly declared martial law and brought in 10,000 anti-riot and military police to contain the fighting. Villagers clashed with them, too, swinging iron bars and throwing bricks and stones, witnesses said. Public notices have been posted in ethnic Hui villages, warning residents not to give refuge to anyone involved in the violence.

The clashes appeared to have been exacerbated by the arrival of hundreds of Muslim Hui from other parts of the country who rushed to the region to support their ethnic brethren. Military police set up checkpoints and, with the help of local imams, persuaded many of the outsiders to go home, the official at the mosque said. But residents said some eluded police and joined the clashes.

In another incident, police in western Sichuan province clashed with demonstrators at the site of a proposed dam Friday, beating one man to death and injuring several others, residents said. More than 50,000 villagers participated in the protests, disbanding over the weekend only after officials promised to suspend construction and discuss compensation for farmland to be flooded.

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