Thousands Protest Embezzlement of Earthquake Funds

Thousands of villagers have protested against the embezzlement of funds meant for earthquake victims in southwestern China, near the site of a massive earthquake in 2008.

On April 25, peasants of Linjiang town, near Wenchuan, the epicenter of the May 2008 quake that killed thousands of people, surrounded the local government building and smashed tables and chairs.

Local police were sent to violently disperse the crowd.

Reports of the violence that ensued include police hitting a villager in the eye, blinding him, and a pregnant woman who was on the phone being beaten to the ground and hospitalized. Police thought she was taking photographs of the scene, according to witnesses. They said she was bleeding badly after the armed police began striking her. She was later dragged to the county office by police, before they called an ambulance after assessing that she was badly injured.

According to a resident, who asked to remain anonymous for personal safety, officials of Lianjiang town, in Mingshan County, Sichuan Province, stole hundreds of millions of yuan from the earthquake poverty alleviation fund–money that was meant to help victims of the Wenchuan quake.

Villagers confronted the officials on April 22, but when they were met with hostile responses, they stepped up their protests. According to one account, an official said “I will swallow the fund… I’m not going to leave even crumbs for you!”

When no answers were given, residents felt they had no recourse and began rioting on April 25.

The April 25 protests were followed by more angry villagers on the following day, who also surrounded government buildings.

Police responded brutally, according to accounts. “In the afternoon, the government sent hundreds of armed police, riot police, and militia to crack down on the villagers,” one individual said in a telephone interview.

Another villager said that: “Yesterday, the villagers opened a cabinet containing the financial documents and discovered that the monies were taken by Party officials and their families. Every family received as much as 100,000 yuan (US$15,800) The villagers were outraged. The CCP is so corrupt; every official in it is corrupt.”

Officials contacted at Linjiang government offices declined to answer questions about the incident or the alleged embezzlement.

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