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Villagers in southern China riot over land dispute

BEIJING -- Villagers carrying clubs and rocks rioted in south China over a land dispute, police said Sunday, and a newspaper reported thousands of armed police had been dispatched to quell the protest.

Police in Guangdong province's Zhongshan said on their Twitter-like weibo account that residents from a village called Yilong stormed an industrial park and “fought, smashed, looted and burnt” — words often used to describe riots.

It gave no indication of how many were involved in the Saturday incident, but said that since August, some villagers had used a protracted land leasing row between two districts as an excuse to block production at the industrial park.

The Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily News said in a report that thousands of residents were involved in the riot, and they “burnt two factory workshops to vent their anger ... and local authorities dispatched 3,000 armed police.”

“Villagers threw petrol bombs and ignited gas cans to fight back,” it said, adding the dispute stemmed from anger over village leaders selling land for personal gain.

The report said that three people had been beaten to death. Police in Zhongshan city, which oversees Yilong, denied anyone had died on their weibo account, adding the situation had now been brought under control.

The local police station where the riot occurred refused to comment when contacted by AFP, and neither Zhongshan police nor the government were available for comment.

The unrest is the latest in a series of large-scale protests to hit China, as disenfranchised people left behind by the country's economic boom or angry at official corruption take to the streets to air their grievances.

Last month, thousands of people clashed with police and smashed cars in the eastern province of Zhejiang after protests over taxes turned violent, a rights group said. Police have since detained 72 people over the incident.

In September, hundreds of villagers — angered at the sale of land without their permission — attacked a police station and ransacked vehicles in Guangdong, leaving dozens injured, local authorities and media reports said.

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