China seeks to curb unrest amid global crisis

Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:36am EST
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By Ian Ransom

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has told police to ensure stability amid the global financial crisis after thousands of people attacked police and government offices in a northwestern city in unrest triggered by a plan to resettle residents.

After decades of solid economic growth, China is battling an unknown as falling demand for its products triggers factory closures, sparks protests and raises fears of popular unrest.

Rioting involving thousands of people exploded on Monday in Wudu, in Gansu province's poverty-stricken region of Longnan, where 1.8 million people were made homeless by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake.

The unrest, which flared up again on Tuesday, saw rioters invade local government offices, loot equipment and torch police cars.

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu said police "should be fully aware of the challenge brought by the global financial crisis and try their best to maintain social stability," according to the China Daily.

State media said the riots were triggered by a scheme to move the government headquarters to a neighboring county, which would force local residents to relocate, and had prompted fears from some residents about future housing and livelihoods.

Youtube footage showed police struggling to restore order while being pelted with stones. Pictures on Chinese web portals showed columns of armed riot police sheltering beneath shields.

An uneasy calm had fallen on Wudu on Wednesday, after authorities ordered an evening curfew and closed major streets and local businesses, according to local residents, who said heavy-handed police had inflamed the riots.   Continued...

<p>People stand in front of screens showing stock information at a brokerage house in Wuhan, Hubei province November 18, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer</p>