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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 08:15 GMT
Hostages freed in China dispute
Map of Guangdong
A tense stand-off in a Chinese village has ended after police freed eight officials held hostage by angry residents for nine days, reports say.

Residents of Dongzhou in southern Guangdong province seized the officials following the arrest of anti-corruption activist Chen Qian.

Eyewitnesses said police stormed a temple where the hostages were kept firing warning shots and tear gas.

Three people were shot dead by police in a land protest there in 2005.

Rural unrest, often blamed on illegal land grabs, is a growing problem.

RECENT LAND DISPUTES
Grieving family members on streets of Dongzhou near Shanwei, Guangdong - 12/12/2005
6 Nov 2004: Paramilitary troops put down an uprising of 100,000 farmers in Sichuan province
10 April 2005: 20,000 peasants drive off more than 1,000 riot police in Huaxi, Zhejiang province
11 June 2005: Six farmers die in a fight with armed men in Shengyou, Hebei province
29 July 2005: Villagers in Taishi, Guangdong try to oust mayor
6 Dec 2005: Police shoot dead protesters in Dongzhou, Guangdong
14 Jan 2006: Police break up protest in Sanjiao, Guangdong, over land grabs

There are thought to be thousands of protests a year across China, with farmers in villages whose land has been taken often directing their anger at corrupt local officials who skim off the profits when it is sold to developers.

The latest protest was sparked by the detention last week of villager Chen Qian, who was hanging up anti-corruption posters when he was taken into custody, according to Radio Free Asia.

Police vans were deployed outside the village as residents locked hostages in a local temple on 9 November. They moved in nine days later.

Hong Kong's Ming Pao Daily newspaper reported on Sunday that three villagers were also arrested.

"The authorities never wanted to resolve this peacefully. They are like the mafia.

"They arrested Chen Qian and two or three others and have beaten them half dead," a villager told AFP news agency.

Local officials and police refused to comment.

Dongzhou, near the town of Shanwei, was the scene of a violent stand-off in December 2005 between the locals and police over construction of a power station, which the villagers said was being built on illegally seized farmland.

Authorities said at the time that three people were shot dead by police during the violence, though human rights activists questioned whether the real number was higher.

Last week, residents of another Guangdong village - Sanzhou - took hostage local officials and clashed with police in a row over illegally seized land, Hong Kong media reported.


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