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Riot in central China injures 19 - Xinhua

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Aug 9 (Reuters) A three-day long riot in China's central Hunan province injured 19 people last month, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday, dismissing previous reports of widespread deaths.

A Hong Kong newspaper, the Apple Daily, said earlier this week that police had opened fire and killed 100 rioters, though repeated calls to the area and local officials could not confirm the report.

Xinhua said the riot started after a man and his wife got into a fight at a nightclub in a neighbouring village. It did not mention any deaths.

''Later, despite attempts at mediation by the local government and police, villagers escalated the violence, which left 19 people injured, 10 stores destroyed and three police vehicles overturned,'' Xinhua said.

The incident in Wenxing town and Yanglinzhai township of Xiangyin County happened between July 23 and 25, the agency said.

''Order in the county had been restored,'' it added. No violence occurred between villagers and the police, said an official with the county government.'' China has been grappling with an increase in social unrest, sparked by anger over issues ranging from land grabs without proper compensation to corruption and disparities in wealth between the rich coastal belt and impoverished hinterland.

In January, the Ministry of Public Security put the total number of ''public order disturbances, obstructions of justice, gathering of mobs and stirring up of trouble'' at 87,000 last year, up 6.6 per cent from 2004.

But the ministry said today that rising trend had reversed in the first six months of the year. However, China has a track record of fudging statistics to cover up problems in its drive to perpetuate one-party rule.

In December, paramilitary police opened fire on residents of Dongzhou village in the southern province of Guangdong protesting against a lack of compensation for land appropriated for a new power plant. The government says three villagers were killed.

REUTERS DKA BST1628

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