BEIJING (Reuters) - Eight people have died in a clash between construction workers and villagers in southwestern China over a land dispute, the government and Chinese media said on Wednesday, in the latest bout of rural unrest in the world’s most populous country.
The government of Jinning county near Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, said on its official microblog that a fight broke out between workers building a trading and logistics center and the residents of a village.
Six of the dead in Tuesday’s incident were workers and the other two villagers, while 18 people were injured, one of them seriously, the government said.
Pictures on the popular microblogging site Weibo, which Reuters could not independently verify, showed what appeared to be bodies lying in the street and construction workers tied up, along with a large number of riot police.
The government said the police would carry out a “legal, objective, fair and just” probe and punish lawbreakers.
The respected Chinese magazine Caixin said a previous clash in June saw villagers accusing the government of illegally seizing the land for the project.
The report said some villagers had told the magazine that people in “black uniforms”, some with shields bearing police markings, had attacked them, and the villagers had fought back.
Land disputes are one of the main causes of the tens of thousands of protests across China each year. Most go unreported, though some, such as a revolt in the southern village of Wukan in 2011, have attained a high profile and prompted promises of action by Beijing.
China’s slowing economy has reduced tax revenues for local governments at a time when the cooling property market has also dampened land sales, an important source of government income.
The unrest in Yunnan comes as the ruling Communist Party meets next week for a conclave to discuss how to strengthen the rule of law, in hopes of damping instability that is greatly feared by the party.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez