April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Police in the southern Chinese city of Maoming detained 18 people after protests against a planned chemical plant turned violent, officials said at the first press conference held about the incident.
A total of 44 people are alleged to have broken the law during the demonstrations, said Zhou Peizhou, deputy police chief in Maoming, according to a transcript of a press conference yesterday posted on the People’s Daily website. Most of those detained face charges of gathering a crowd to disturb public order and instigating quarrels, Zhou said.
Protests that broke out in Maoming over the weekend saw more than 1,000 people demonstrate in front of the city’s Communist Party committee building on the morning of March 30 before the government says some of them turned violent. While pictures posted online purported to show people lying on the ground covered in blood, Zhou said no one had been killed. A local health official said 15 people were injured including four police.
“In the process of dealing with the incident on March 30, there were indeed some scratches and bumps between the police on duty and the people gathered,” Zhou said, according to the transcript.
Still, in clearing the area because of the number of people, police on duty “may have mistakenly hurt surrounding people looking on,” he said.
The protests in Maoming spread to the city of Shenzhen yesterday, the South China Morning Post reported today. About 20 people originally from Maoming staged a rally in Shenzhen demanding authorities scrap the plant, the paper said. The demonstration lasted about 10 minutes before the people were taken away by police.
Maoming’s deputy mayor, Liang Luoyue, said his city, known for its oil projects, had started initial work on the project in March, according to the People’s Daily transcript.
Protesters who gathered in front of the Maoming party committee building on the morning of March 30 started to walk slowly down various roads, he said.
In the afternoon, a small group of people gathered at the central square throwing water bottles and eggs at the police and encouraged others to obstruct traffic, causing a serious buildup of cars, he said.
After 8 p.m., around 40 people stopped and attacked two cars, overturning one of them, before beating a police officer who tried to warn them, Liang said. By 10 p.m., others gathered and used stones and glass bottles to attack the entrance to the party committee building. They were driven away by police, he said, without giving further details.
Later on, some people damaged shops, advertising placards in different areas of the city, and set fire to a police car.
“At this point, the character of the incident had already changed,” he said. “A small number of people not obeying the law used the opportunity of the protest against the chemical project,” and intentionally carried out illegal behavior, Liang said.
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