Chinese riot over bus prices

Armed police move in after thousands of protesters clash with local officers.

    Armed police joined local security forces in
    Hunan province on Monday [Reuters]
    On Tuesday, road blocks were set up to seal the area and police put up notices asking people who participated in the demonstration to turn themselves in, Zhang Zilin, a local human rights activist, said.

    Other villagers said local officials were visiting homes and telling people to keep calm and stay off the streets.

    "Things have calmed down today because they sent armed police forces with guns and metal rods last night," one resident told reporters.

    She added that PAP officers were seen beating people in the streets on Monday night.

    Student 'severely beaten'

    The Chinese overseas website Boxun.com, which frequently carries reports of unrest in China, said one middle-school student had been severely beaten and died in hospital.
      
    Zhang said he did not have any details about the student who died, but Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper said the boy was hospitalised on Sunday and died on Monday.

    Local police declined to comment officially on the situation but staff at the Public Security Bureau's Lingling District headquarters said that all officers were out on the streets.
      
    "It started from March 9 and is still going on. No one can comment on the event as almost all the policemen at our bureau are out there," said a staff member, who wanted to remain anonymous. 

    The protests began after a bus station employee began beating a student after a dispute over a new five-yuan (63 US cent) baggage fee, the resident told reporters.

    Bus prices dispute
      
    Another resident said people had been angered by bus fares being increased from six yuan to 15 yuan.

    Government officials said on Tuesday it would be brought down to five yuan.

    The incident is the latest outbreak of public unrest highlighting the problems in China's economic transition.
      
    Anger over perceived corruption, land seizures and rising prices sparked tens of thousands of "mass incidents" last year, according to official figures, and the country's leaders have made a more "harmonious" society a top priority. 

    The ruling Communist party has in recent years focused its efforts to develop the poverty-stricken countryside and improve the lives of its 800 million rural residents.
     

    Yiyi Lu, from the UK China policy institute, told Al Jazeera that there have been may similar protests over last 7 years.

     

    "The government has talked for some time about stepping up efforts to solve rural problems.

     

    "The protesters know the national people's congress is in process and therefore they will gain more attention."


    Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, mentioned rural education and healthcare subsidies in his opening speech to the annual meeting of China's legislature last week and the party has set aside billions of yuan in new farm subsidies.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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