BEIJING – Police patrolled a village in southern China on Tuesday, a day after the cremation of a teenage girl who was beaten to death by officers in violent weekend protests over land compensation, according to media reports.
The girl reportedly was clubbed by police wielding electric batons during a demonstration Saturday, when hundreds of villagers from Sanjiao in Guangdong province rallied outside government offices and blocked a highway as part of their protest.
The parents of the girl — whose age was given as either 13 or 15 — have been given up to $25,000 on condition they say she had died of a heart attack, the South China Morning Post and other newspapers in Hong Kong said, citing unidentified villagers.
Her body was cremated on Monday, according to Hong Kong's Sing Tao newspaper. Police were patrolling the area every few minutes, it said.
Local authorities have refused to comment on the reported death, although the official Xinhua News Agency issued a rare dispatch blaming the villagers for inciting the clashes and denying officers used violence.
Dozens of villagers reached Tuesday by telephone mostly refused to talk about the protest, apparently out of fear of retribution from authorities. One woman said she had heard of the girl's death, but wouldn't give her name or any details.
"The government wants the land. What can we do?" she said. "It's not convenient for me to say anymore."
Saturday's violence came a month after authorities opened fire into a crowd of villagers in Dongzhou, also in Guangdong, reportedly killing up to 20 people in the deadliest incident in decades.
The protests in Dongzhou and Sanjiao focused on complaints of inadequate compensation for farmland, taken over by authorities for industrial use or property development.
Simmering anger in China's vast, poverty-stricken countryside over land seizures, official corruption and pollution have been erupting more frequently and becoming more violent.
Government figures show 74,000 cases of rural unrest in 2004.
Official media reports said the villagers from Sanjiao had staged a sit-in at local government offices earlier in the week. On Saturday, about 100 villagers staged another demonstration, which eventually attracted a crowd of at least 500 others.
"A few troublemakers started throwing bricks, stones and burning firecrackers at policemen and bystanders," said the Zhongshan Daily, which reported that five people were injured but no one was killed. Zhongshan is a city that oversees Sanjiao.
The newspaper said Monday that 25 people were questioned after Saturday's incident and four have been detained. It said police reinforcements had been called up to maintain order in the area.
A waitress who refused to give her name said Tuesday that she had heard that police checkpoints had been set up but hadn't seen any herself.
"There are no roadblocks here today," she said. "But some policemen are on patrol right now."
She said that on the night of the protests, hundreds of people swarmed the area near her restaurant and tried to block the expressway to get the government's attention.
"I heard an official speaking through a loudspeaker," the waitress said. "He was telling villagers to go back home but they just weren't listening."