Massive Protests Erupt in Sichuan, Protestors Briefly Detain Provincial Party Secretary

November 19, 2004

According to reports in the Taipei Times, the Hong Kong Tai Yang Pao, the Singapore Straits Times, and other media, Hanyuan county, Sichuan has been hit by several rounds of massive demonstrations over forced relocations since mid-October. Hanyuan county is the site of a large hydroelectric project that has displaced more than 100,000 peasants. Beginning in late October, tens of thousands of peasants reportedly marched on the construction site and government buildings in Hanyuan and clashed with police in a protest over the relocations and inadequate compensation.

According to the reports, the unrest intensified when up to 60,000 peasants attempted to block police reinforcements from the site. Protestors detained Sichuan Party Secretary Zhang Xuezhong for several hours when he traveled there on November 5. By November 8, more than 10,000 armed soldiers and police had been sent to the site to disperse the riots. Two police officers and several peasants have reportedly been killed in the unrest, which Hong Kong’s Tai Yang Pao characterized as “the most serious peasant riots in the past 55 years.” According to a November 10 report in Tai Yang Pao, President Hu Jintao has ordered work on the disputed project to be suspended until protest issues are resolved and sent a work team led by State Council Executive Deputy Secretary General Wang Yang to Hanyuan to pacify the demonstrators. At the same time, the government has promised severe punishment for those involved in violence. Chinese authorities have reportedly banned news coverage of the protests.