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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 11:05 GMT
China tries to calm dam protests
By Louisa Lim
BBC, Beijing

China has sacked at least one Communist Party official and suspended work on a controversial dam after one of the largest rural protests in recent years.

Tens of thousands of farmers staged violent protests over the Pubugou dam project, in Sichuan province.

The handling of the protest is indicative of just how scared China's leaders are of unrest.

A string of large protests in recent weeks have demonstrated the depth of grievances in rural China.

Three weeks ago, tens of thousands of farmers in Hanyuan county rioted over plans to build a dam that would flood them off their land.

They were angry at inadequate compensation, and that local officials had not paid any heed to their objections.

Stability pact

At least one person was killed, and thousands of paramilitary police deployed to restore order.

Now, however, the central government has intervened, sacking at least one Communist Party official and promising to halt work on the dam temporarily.

It is part of a strategy some describe as "buying stability", or offering concessions at a local level to restore order.

But this approach also sends out the message that large-scale protests are the best way to solve grievances.

In recent weeks, several incidences of large-scale civil unrest have broken out around the country.

Figures show that protests in China are growing in size and frequency, as the gap between rich and poor widens, and people express their frustration with local corruption.

While these protests do not yet threaten communist party rule, they are deeply unsettling for China's authoritarian leaders.

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