Riot police have fired teargas and beaten residents in southern China after they took to the streets to protest against a local construction project.
Hundreds of residents in Wenlou, a township in Guangdong province about 60 miles from Hong Kong, protested on Friday against plans for a large crematorium in an area officials had previously said would become an “ecological park”.
Footage recorded by residents appeared to show riot police firing teargas, throwing rocks and beating protesters. Videos also showed residents throwing firecrackers at the police and tipping over a car. One protester was seen holding a sign that read “The people of Wenlou do not agree”.
“The whole town is protesting. The government has violently deployed people to suppress it,” said one resident, who asked not to be named, adding that police had beaten elderly residents and young students. “Now police are like crazy dogs, beating whoever they see. Where is the law? Where is morality?”
— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) November 29, 2019
Small-scale protests against projects such as incinerators, chemical plants or crematoriums are not uncommon in China’s more rural areas. But the Wenlou demonstrations come at a time when authorities are especially sensitive to the possibility of protests spreading from nearby Hong Kong, where anti-government protests are now in their sixth month.
While many Chinese in the mainland oppose those protests, the risk may be higher in Guangdong province where many have family or personal connections with Hong Kong.
Residents in Wenlou expressed sentiments similar to those in Hong Kong: anger at what they perceived to be police brutality and a sense they had been forced into the streets after being misled by local officials.
“If not pushed to a dead end, who would choose to hit their heads against a rock,” said another resident from Wenlou. She said police had sealed off all the roads and she was unable to share videos from the scene.
Posts related to the Wenlou protests appear to have been removed from the Chinese microblogging website Weibo, but some footage was reposted to Twitter and other social media sites.
One Weibo user who had posted several videos wrote on Friday: “The people of Wenlou are pledging their lives to resist, but they have been met with suppression by the police, randomly arresting and hitting people. My last few posts have been deleted. Please save our town.”
According to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, police in Wenlou raided homes early on Friday, arresting those believed to had participated in protests on Thursday when hundreds of people attempted to march on the local government offices. Residents told the paper that about 50 people had been detained.