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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 09:52 GMT
Security tight in China riot town
A damaged vehicle in Zhushan after a riot on 12 March 2007
Several vehicles were burned out in the riot
Security is tight in a town in central China following riots that involved as many as 20,000 people.

A BBC correspondent in the town, in Hunan province, has seen riot police and soldiers protecting government buildings and patrolling the streets.

He says it appears the protests began after a local firm took over the town's bus routes and doubled the fares.

Vehicles were burned and several people were injured in clashes with police as the protests climaxed on Monday.

Reports said one person had been killed, although this was denied on Wednesday by the official Xinhua news agency, which played down the incident.

Growing unrest

The BBC's James Reynolds says calm has been restored to Zhushan town, near the city of Yongzhou, and the presence of the security forces is clearly felt.

But, he says, the protesters believe they have won because the bus company has since brought its prices back down.

hunan map

The firm's decision to raise the bus fare from around 50 cents to $1 during the recent Chinese New Year brought complaints initially from the parents of secondary school children, our correspondent has learned.

They began protesting on Friday and were joined by others over the weekend - reaching a reported 20,000.

But the protests became violent on Monday as around 1,000 police in riot gear clashed with the demonstrators.

Such protests are not uncommon in China's countryside, which has seen growing unrest over the widening gap between rich and poor.

Rural communities have felt left behind and ignored as China's towns have reaped the financial benefits of the country's move towards a market economy.

There are at least 200 protests of differing sizes each day, official figures show, although many do not get any publicity.

The Chinese government is highly sensitive to such manifestations of anger, our correspondent says.

They have introduced a series of measures to try to address the sources of discontent, which includes pumping billions of dollars into the rural economy in the form of farm subsidies, as well as reining in the seizures of farmland for development and tackling government corruption.


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