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Gun-toting villagers riot in central China in clan row
BEIJING, Aug 8 (AFP) Aug 08, 2006
Up to 300 knife-wielding and gun-toting villagers rioted in central China in what appeared to be a clan dispute, with soldiers deployed to quash the violence, residents said Tuesday.

The riot occurred on July 25 in Hunan province, when between 200 and 300 people from Yanglinzhai township marched into Xiangyin county, carrying knives, clubs, hunting guns and revolvers, residents said.

"They were smashing stores along the street, they injured at least a dozen people," a Xiangyin resident surnamed Xu told AFP.

The county's top Communist Party officer was among those who were hurt, another resident who witnessed the riot, surnamed Wu, said.

Xu said he heard three people died, although Wu said he had not heard any reports of death.

Wu said authorities mobilized around 2,000 soldiers to control the situation.

A Xiangyin county police official surnamed Wang confirmed the incident but refused to comment on the casualty numbers or give a reason for the riot.

A statement from the Xiangyin county government on its website said that an "illegal minority" had used a confrontation between the neighboring townships late last month to create havoc in the area.

They had assaulted government and party agencies, obstructed traffic and even taken hostages, according to the statement.

Residents and postings on local Internet websites suggested the riot was the result of quarrels and conflicts between clans.

"They were fighting due to their personal interest, there are a lot of conflicts between Yanglinzhai and Xiangyin people," Wu said.

Clans, groups of people with a common ancestor, have always been an important part of Chinese society.

Residents in Xiangyin complained their safety had long been threatened by thugs from Yanglinzhai and griped about the weakness of the local government and police.

"The local government and public security bureau are powerless. Policemen don't dare to handle the problems," Xu said.

The incident prompted the Xiangyin county government to issue a statement banning public assembly and demonstrations, according to its website.

The regulations, signed by a special task force on social stability, also highlighted a series of actions as illegal, including spreading rumors and attacking Communist Party agencies.

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