Beijing (AFP) May 26, 2009
Hundreds of angry tea farmers attacked a police station in southern China after rumours spread that one man had been killed in custody for fighting for farmers' rights, state media said Tuesday.
The attackers damaged the station in Guangdong province with stones and bricks and set police vehicles on fire in Saturday's incident, the China Daily said of the latest in a string of attacks on Chinese police stations.
The riot lasted more than four hours before being brought under control, it said, giving no other information on damage or injuries.
Tea farmers in the city of Yingde have complained for years that authorities have not provided them with required medical insurance, social pensions and unemployment compensation, the paper said.
Farmers had protested twice this month, leading police on Friday to arrest four organisers suspected of planning larger demonstrations, it said.
About 300 farmers gathered Saturday at the police station to demand the release of the four, but the rally became a riot when word spread that one of the men in custody had been killed.
The newspaper quoted police denying anyone had died.
Local officials refused comment when contacted by AFP.
China sees tens of thousands of protests or outbursts of violence every year, often stemming from dissatisfaction with local authorities, with attacks on police stations or officers becoming increasingly common.
Last week, up to 1,000 protesters took to the streets in the northwestern province of Gansu, injuring 10 police and government officials and overturning police cars, state media reported.
The riot was sparked by anger after officers allegedly beat a cyclist for running a red light, reports said.
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