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China arrests 19 over riots
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 18, 2011

Authorities in China have arrested 19 people suspected of "provoking incidents" during three days of riots in the country's southern industrial heartland, state media said Saturday.

The violence in Guangdong province was the latest in a series of flare-ups in the country, which analysts say highlight resentment towards an unresponsive government.

The clashes in Xintang, a district in the greater Guangzhou area, began on June 10 after rumours spread that police had beaten a street hawker to death and manhandled his pregnant wife.

"On June 15 the judicial authorities arrested 19 people suspected of obstructing the work of the police, provoking incidents and deliberately destroying property," the Zengcheng Daily said Friday in an article published on a local government website.

The article stressed that nobody was killed in the clashes and said "armed police did not carry lethal weapons or fire a single shot".

"There was no confrontation between police and the civilian population, nor between the local population and migrants," the article said.

But television images of the unrest showed hundreds of officers and armoured vehicles deployed, with people hurling bricks and bottles at local officials and police, and vandalising ATMs and police posts.

The official state news agency Xinhua ran a long article on Saturday highlighting wealth inequalities and social division between locals and migrant workers in the area.

Official statistics show that Xintang has a local population of around 200,000 but as many as 500,000 to 600,000 unregistered migrant workers without access to public services, Xinhua said.

The man rumoured to have been killed was presented at a news conference by authorities last Sunday, telling reporters that he, his wife and their unborn baby girl were "doing very well".

Police said they had detained a person suspected of spreading rumours on the Internet that triggered the clashes.

The public security bureau in Guangzhou city announced on its official page on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, that the suspect surnamed Chen was detained Tuesday and had confessed to publishing false information online.

Elsewhere in Guangdong province, hundreds of workers went on strike at a watch factory this week in protest at long working hours, the Southern Metropolitan Daily reported.

The Guangzhou riots followed hot on the heels of a mass protest in the central province of Hubei on June 9, when 1,500 people clashed with riot squads following the alleged death in police custody of a local legislator.

Earlier this month, hundreds of people battled police and destroyed cars in another incident in Guangdong, after a factory worker was wounded in a knife attack over a wage dispute.

And in late May, thousands of ethnic Mongols protested in northern China for several days after the killing of a herder laid bare simmering anger over what some perceive as Chinese oppression.

The protests have compounded the jitters of a government already wary about the potential for Arab-style unrest to spread to China, and for rising inflation to spark more violence.

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Corrupt Chinese officials siphoned more than $120 billion out of the country in less than two decades, the central bank has said in a study highlighting the widespread scourge of government graft. Between 16,000 and 18,000 government officials and executives of state-owned firms have fled China or simply vanished with up to 800 billion yuan ($123.7 billion) in illegal gains, according to the ... read more

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