Angry villagers protesting a local mining operation in southwest China attacked security forces with machetes and clubs, leaving one policeman dead and 15 injured, local authorities said on Friday.
The riot occurred on Wednesday when police were dispatched to a government building in Yunnan province’s Renhe township to try and persuade villagers staging a protest in front of the building to leave, authorities said.
“Suddenly villagers attacked the police with machetes and wooden clubs, leaving 16 injured, one of whom died later while receiving treatment,” said a statement released by the government of Lijiang – which oversees Renhe.
“During the incident, the police maintained a high level of restraint and not one villager was injured,” it added.
Earlier this month, locals from Xiaoganqing village complained that the development of a local coal mine was endangering their lands and demanded their homes be moved and that they be compensated, the statement said.
A spokeswoman for the Lijiang government told AFP those complaints went unanswered and so the villagers moved their protest to the Renhe government building, where they stayed one week until the violence on Wednesday.
The spokeswoman, surnamed Yu, said the dead policeman was Wang Shaoyong, vice director of the public security bureau of Yongsheng county, which oversees the village.
Local police refused to tell AFP whether any of the villagers had been arrested following the incident.
China faces increasing pressure from public discontent over land disputes, which have in the past months sparked several violent protests against authorities in various parts of the country.
Earlier this month, hundreds of ethnic Mongols living in China’s northern region of Inner Mongolia blocked roads as they protested the alleged illegal occupation of their land by a forestry firm.
Authorities arrested 22 people amid accusations of police brutality, rights groups say.
Land grabs also triggered a huge revolt against authorities in the southern village of Wukan in December, in a case that attracted international media attention and eventually led to rare concessions by the provincial government.