The reason for the protest in Fuan city in Fujian province was unclear. Police said it was instigated by “a handful of lawless people.” One resident said people became angry because police and paramedics took nearly an hour to arrive to help the injured, while a Hong Kong-based human rights group said it was to do with corruption.
But such protests have become increasingly common in China, and Saturday's violence is another reminder that the country's new leadership has to deal with underlying social discontent that often boils over. People are fed up with corruption and high-handed officialdom, pensions that have not kept pace with inflation and families being forced from their homes to make way for developments.
Residents said police were stopping cars and checking people for driving after drinking on Saturday evening when the accident happened on a main road in Fuan.
Wanting to avoid being tested, a driver in a sedan accelerated away and police started chasing the car, said a resident, who would give only his surname, Lin. About three motorcycles were hit during the chase, said Lin, adding he wasn't sure who hit them.
“About 10,000 to 20,000 onlookers became angry because police officers and paramedics took nearly one hour to arrive,” said Lin.
He estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 people clashed with police and overturned three police vans.
Photos carried by online southeastern news sites showed hundreds of people swarming across a wide street with two vans thrown onto their sides. In one photo, three people stood on top of an overturned van.