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China students riot as police warn of unrest

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Oct 25 (Reuters) Thousands of university students rioted in eastern China this week, officials and students said today, as the police chief called for greater efforts to tame rising unrest.

Students from Jiangxi province's Clothing Vocational College marched through campus on Monday after state media reported that school authorities had deceived new students about their eventual qualifications and issued fake diplomas.

''They (students) committed extreme acts such as vandalising and looting,'' an officer at the Jiangxi provincial police department told Reuters by telephone. ''Anti-riot police have been stationed on campus to maintain order.'' But some students interviewed denied any wrongdoing and blamed the damage on hooligans from nearby neighbourhoods who took advantage of the chaos yesterday.

''It's people from the outside who smashed the offices and took away computers,'' one student said. ''Students were discontented, but we just marched and demanded a response from the school.'' The student and others reached by phone said there had been no serious injuries or detentions by police. The campus returned to normal today.

China's state television aired a lengthy investigative report on Monday on how the privately run college had recruited about 20,000 students, well above approved quotas, in the past three years by promising them diplomas it was not qualified to award.

Private colleges have boomed in China in the past decade, accommodating those who fail to be admitted into prestigious state universities in fiercely competitive entrance exams. But private schools are badly regulated.

A similar riot broke out at a private college in the central province of Henan in June when thousands of students, angry at the wording on their diplomas, smashed windows and ransacked their campus, which was later sealed off.

Zhou Yongkang, Minister of Public Security, today urged the government to strengthen control of its increasingly diverse and demanding society as it seeks to tame rising unrest.

China's buoyant economic growth is shadowed by rising discontent from citizens who expect a bigger share of wealth and opportunity, Zhou Yongkang wrote in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.

Zhou called for continued economic growth and new policies to channel China's rising tide of migrant workers, as well as greater control over Internet usage and monitoring of public complaints.

Last year, Zhou said China had 74,000 ''mass incidents'' -- protests and riots in Communist jargon -- in 2004 compared with 58,000 in 2003.

REUTERS SAM BST1353

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