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Student rioting unsettles China's leaders

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Oct 27 (Reuters) Students from two private vocational schools in eastern China have returned to class after rioting in the past week unsettled state leaders, local officials and a government source said today.

Thousands of students from Ganjiang College outside Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province, went on the rampage on Saturday, overturning cars, smashing windows and setting fire to buildings, a local police officer said by phone.

On Monday, thousands of angry students from the Jiangxi Clothing Vocational College, also near Nanchang, marched through campus after state television reported on how school authorities had deceived new students about their eventual academic qualifications and issued fake diplomas, officials have said.

Students interviewed said they had clashed with hooligans from nearby neighbourhoods who took advantage of the chaos and looted and vandalised the campus on Tuesday.

A government source in Beijing said on Friday the unrest had alarmed President Hu Jintao, who was briefed by Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang.

''Zhou Yongkang had to brief Hu Jintao because they were major sudden incidents,'' the source told Reuters, declining to be named because he is not authorised to reveal details to foreign media.

China has feared campus unrest since the leadership sent in troops to crush student-led demonstrations for democracy centred on Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed.

Local officials said most students in both schools had returned to class after riot police were sent to maintain order and officials and teachers tried to placate them.

''School officials have apologised to us on the campus radio,'' a clothing college student said from her dormitory, declining to be named for fear of repercussion.

She said members of the paramilitary People's Armed Police were patrolling the campus, mainly to ward off hooligans.

An official with the Jiangxi provincial education department said Ganjiang College would refund tuition and housing fees to freshman students if they decide to drop out.

''The school cheated students as to what type of diplomas it can award,'' an officer near the campus said.

It was unclear if there were any injuries or arrests.

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

It was the worst outbreak of campus violence since a 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.

On Wednesday, Minister Zhou 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 wrote in the People's Daily.

Last year Zhou put the number of ''mass incidents'' -- Communist jargon for protests and riots -- at 74,000 in 2004 compared with 58,000 in 2003.


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