Thousands of villagers clashed with police in southern China over government plans to tear down sluice gates built by villagers for irrigation, leaving one woman dead and several people injured, newspapers and witnesses said Thursday.
About 4,000 villagers gathered Wednesday to stop police from demolishing the pair of gates in Bomei, a village in Guangdong province, and were dispersed with tear gas and water cannons, according to Hong Kong's Ming Pao Daily.
The newspaper and Radio Free Asia, a U.S.-funded broadcaster, said a woman in her 30s had died. Radio Free Asia said she was hit in the head by a tear gas canister. Ming Pao said at least 10 other people were injured.
The South China Morning Post newspaper said the villagers were armed with "homemade weapons including petrol bombs" and fought to keep more than 1,000 police officers from the gates.
Such fierce confrontations between farmers and authorities are becoming more common across China's vast countryside as bitterness grows over corruption and land seizures.
"There was chaos here," said one villager who was reached by telephone. He gave only his surname, Huang, for fear of official retaliation.
An official in Xilu, the town which oversees Bomei, said he was "unclear" about the situation and hung up. Telephone calls to government offices in Bomei and to the provincial government were not answered.
Huang said villagers built the sluice gates in September to irrigate their crops, but the local officials deemed the structures illegal. When the government decided to tear the gates down, "this enraged us," Huang said.
During the conflict, he said, police "launched tear gas toward villagers. Some villagers' eyes were seriously hurt", reports the AP.