China tax protest turns violent

BEIJING, October 27, 2011 (AFP) - Hundreds of people have clashed with police in eastern China after protests over rising taxes turned violent, a local government website said on Thursday.

The incident on Wednesday evening began when business owners protested over taxes, an official statement posted on a local website in Huzhou city said. Reports said they were angered after hearing their taxes would double this year.

Calling the demonstrators "malicious troublemakers," the website said more than 600 people had gathered to observe the protest, disrupting traffic on a nearby road.

The statement said police dispersed crowds before midnight and the situation was under control.

But local clothing factory workers reached by telephone told AFP the number of protestors was in the thousands, that car windows and tyres had been destroyed, and that they remained afraid to go outside on Thursday.

"People and police officers are everywhere on the street. I heard the police have detained at least 1,000 people and if you walk outside, you may be beaten," the woman told AFP, declining to give her name.

Bloggers reported that between three and eight people had been killed in the clashes, but this could not be confirmed.

A local public security bureau official contacted by telephone refused to comment. "The officers are all outside trying to control the situation," he told AFP before hanging up.