Protesters and police clash in southern China over plans for crematorium

Albert Han

Riot police fired tear gas and beat protesters after hundreds took to the streets in southern China on Thursday and Friday over plans to build a crematorium in the area.

Residents of Wenlou in Guangdong province – about 100km (60 miles) from Hong Kong – said several hundred people tried to march to the township government offices on Thursday after they found out that a crematorium would be built on land they thought was set aside for a park.

But police stopped the marchers before they reached the township offices, with witnesses claiming that a number of people, including teenagers and at least one elderly person, were wounded as officers in anti-riot gear fired tear gas, beat protesters and detained them.

Residents also said police raided homes to arrest protesters on Thursday night and early Friday.

About 200 people took to the streets again on Friday in opposition to the plan, residents said.

About 50 people had been detained, they said.

An official from the township government and an employee from a hospital in the city of Huazhou, which oversees Wenlou, confirmed that some wounded were being treated at the medical centre, but declined to give details.

Videos and images obtained by the South China Morning Post, as well as those circulating on Weibo, a microblogging platform, show police firing multiple rounds of tear gas into crowds and officers beating them with batons. A number of people appear to have head wounds.

Riot police are deployed in Wenlou, Guangdong province, to quell the protest. Photo: Handout

Residents said police went door to door looking for protesters early Friday morning and took people away.

They said tear gas was fired again in the township on Friday and police attacked protesters still on the street.

“They kept firing tear gas and police with an accent from elsewhere kept entering the town,” a shop owner said, refusing to be named for fear of reprisal from the authorities.

“The tear gas keeps coming and coming. Residents are saying, ‘Why are the police not dealing with rioters in Hong Kong? Why are they targeting us? We are not rioters.”

Chinese town residents clash with riot police in protests over incinerator

A resident said his neighbours were hurt in the clashes, and the wounded included primary school pupils.

“Right now there are police everywhere. There are people being hit by the police,” he said.

“Today there are even more injured than yesterday. They were beating farmers.”

The township, which is home to about 60,000 people, was sealed off and nobody was allowed to leave or enter, the resident said.

A protester in Wenlou shows her opposition to the crematorium project on Thursday. Photo: Handout

Another shop owner said most people stayed at home on Friday but the police targeted those who dared to go out.

She said that one of her relatives, a man in his 40s, was taken away on Friday morning by police for allegedly posting news about the protests on Weibo.

“We need some type of fairness, but no one gives it to us,” she said.

In a notice posted online on Thursday, the township government said a funeral home would be built inside the 75 million yuan (US$10.7 million) Huazhou Humanity and Ecology Park project, which covers about 10 hectares (24 acres).

However, a notice about the same project in late October did not refer to funeral or cremation facilities, saying only that the park would have office space and a canteen.

Wu Gang, a supervisor at Jiancheng Engineering Consulting, a company helping the government to solicit public feedback on the project, said he did not know why the notice was posted on Thursday.

“There were some negative opinions from villagers, but I do not know the details,” Wu said.

The company in charge of the construction project could not be reached for comment.

A resident said the community felt “cheated” for having to give up their farmland for the project. “We only found out it is a crematorium recently and we are very upset. They should have had public consultation before,” she said.

Clashes have erupted between villagers and authorities over a range of land development projects in recent years. In July, thousands of residents in Yangluo in Hubei province took to the streets over a proposed landfill.

This article Protesters and police clash in southern China over plans for crematorium first appeared on South China Morning Post

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