Chinese authorities say villagers engaged in a dispute with a property developer detained several construction workers and burned four of them to death in one of the most violent recent conflicts to strike the country's vast rural hinterland.

A government statement issued Thursday said eight people, including two villagers, died in the violence Tuesday in the southwestern province of Yunnan, confirming earlier reports circulating on the Internet along with photos of bound detainees and charred bodies.

The statement said residents of Fuyou village had an unspecified dispute with the developer of a warehouse and logistics center. It said hundreds of tool-wielding villagers and people mobilized by the developer clashed violently.

Other media reports said the clash was over land compensation, the chief cause of violent disputes in rural China.