Chinese village on lockdown following clashes, reform demands
Residents in southern China are locked in a standoff with authorities following violent clashes with unidentified attackers allegedly hired by corrupt officials to enforce a questionable land deal. Police have blockaded the settlement of Shangpu in Guangdong province following the unrest, which was started just over a week ago, the South China Morning Post reported. Residents of the village refused to allow officials in, just days before the annual meeting of the Chinese legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC). Around 30 battered cars, many of them overturned, littered the main streets of the village.
Close to the entrance of the settlement, where around 40 police and officials stood watch, a cloth banner read: “Strongly request legal, democratic elections.” Residents have claimed that the clashes were sparked when assailants, many reportedly wearing orange hard hats and red armbands, drove into the village the previous Friday and assaulted the residents with shovels and other weapons.
Some of the attackers reportedly carried knives and guns, while a video showed one man who was later identified as a plainclothes police officer firing a handgun into the air in an attempt to quell the violence. Residents fought back with bamboo poles and bricks taken from a nearby construction site, witnesses and footage provided to AFP revealed. The villagers eventually drove the attackers off and continued to riot, voicing anger over the incident. At least eight residents were injured in the melee.
Protesters Clash With Police; Soccer Fans Rally in Cairo
Protesters clashed with security forces in Port Said while demonstrators in Cairo rallied outside Egypt’s central bank and bourse, accusing police of excessive force after weekend violence left one person dead. At least 189 people were injured as rocks and firebombs were hurled at the security headquarters in Port Said after protesters learned relatives held in prison there in connection with soccer violence were being transferred, the state-run Middle East News Agency said.
A police car was set ablaze and security forces fired tear gas to prevent the building from being stormed, MENA said. Hundreds of soccer fans gathered outside the central bank and other state buildings in Cairo meanwhile to demand accountability for those responsible for the death of one man and injuries during clashes in the Nile delta town of Mansoura, it said.
Skirmishes between security forces and demonstrators trying to block Cairo’s Tahrir Square took place around the plaza, MENA reported. Demonstrators torched two cars, one of them belonging to police, outside the Egyptian museum, the Arabic-language Al Jazeera TV channel said. The clashes deepen the turmoil that has plagued the country since the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak and compound challenges to revive Egypt’s battered economy. They come ahead of parliamentary elections next month that a main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, plans to boycott.
6 wounded as Palestinians, Israelis clash by Gaza border
(AFP) – Three Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire in Gaza, medical sources said, raising to six the number of Gazans injured in unrest on Friday near the enclave’s borders. Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said three men aged 19-21 were moderately wounded by Israeli gunfire east of Jabalia, in northern Gaza. Israeli military sources said that “Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip fired at and damaged a military vehicle”.
“In addition, during the course of the day Palestinians gathered adjacent to the security fence, hurling firebombs and rocks at soldiers,” which the army regarded as “serious events that threaten the security and stability in southern Israel”. The military sources said that Israeli soldiers shot towards “instigators of violence”. Earlier on Friday, Qudra said three Gaza farmers were wounded by Israeli tank fire east of El-Bureij, near central Gaza’s border with the Jewish state. An Israeli army spokesman said they were aware of the explosion, but that it was probably a “work accident” or a bomb left by Palestinians, and not the result of Israeli fire.
Four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire and over 100 wounded since the November 21 ceasefire between the Jewish state and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, according to the latest report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Under the terms of the Egyptian-mediated truce, Palestinians are supposed to have access to arable land in a buffer zone up to 100 metres from the border fence. Israel allows “civilian access on foot to areas up to 100 metres from the perimeter fence for agricultural purposes only, and vehicular access to a distance of 300 metres,” the OCHA report states.
Riot outside Egypt prison injures scores
PORT SAID, Egypt, March 3 (UPI) — Sunday’s clash outside an Egyptian prison where a group of condemned soccer fans is being held left at least 157 people injured, a source told al-Masry al-Youm A crowd of relatives of the inmates at the Port Said penitentiary stormed the facility with rocks and Molotov cocktails and had to be beaten back by police with tear gas.
The military source said five Egyptian soldiers had to be treated for the effects of the gas, but the authorities remained in control of the scene. The Port Said prison has been the scene of repeated violent protests over the death sentences handed out to 21 defendants in a major soccer riot in Port Said last winter that left 72 other fans dead. Another round of sentences will be handed down March 9. Ahram Online said the government planned to transfer all of the Port Said inmates to different and unidentified facilities before then, which apparently contributed to Sunday’s clashes.
Police block George Abdallah supporters outside French Embassy
BEIRUT: Riot police closed off the street leading to the French embassy in Beirut Sunday, blocking the way of several dozen supporters of Leftist militant George Abdallah who turned out to protest his continued incarceration in France. Demonstrators gathered before the security barrier, with organizer Bassam Kantar denouncing the security forces for preventing the protest from nearing the embassy, “perhaps so that the shouts of activists demanding freedom for George Abdallah do not reach the ears of [French ambassador] Patrice Paoli and all the oppressors who insist on imprisoning this Lebanese militant, this oppressed citizen.”
Abdallah was scheduled to be released and sent back to Lebanon in January after spending 29 years in prison for killing an Israeli diplomat and an American military attache, but the French Interior Ministry has twice denied the deportation order. A new hearing has been set for March 21.
Protesting Bulgarians Blockade Downtown Sofia
Thousands of people have blocked traffic on the key Eagles’ Bridge intersection in the Bulgarian capital Sofia in another huge protest rally against monopolies, poverty and the political model of ruling the country. The entire downtown area is blocked as well. Demonstrators have gathered together in front of the building of the Parliament, coming from three locations – Eagles’ Bridge, the Ministry of Economy and Energy, and the National Palace of Culture.
One of them shouted Bulgarians will occupy the square before the Parliament Wednesday and will remain until the MPs adopt Election Code amendment that will pave the way for the participation of common citizens in politics. The procession also laid flowers at the monument of national hero, Vasil Levski, in paying homage to his sacrifice in fighting for the country’s freedom. The rally coincides with Liberation Day when Bulgaria marks its independence from 500-years of Ottoman Empire rule. The rally is accompanied by music played from loudspeakers.
People are shouting “We Want Change,” “Mafia,” “Resignation,” “Impeachment” and “Bulgaria” among others. There is an increased riot police presence, but there are no reported clashes, aggression, vandalism and other incidents. Armored military machines are seen on some downtown streets. Many are holding flowers, national colors, portraits of Levski and other Bulgarian national heroes, and posters against politicians.
Participants are taking turns speaking against monopolies, oligarchs, high utility bills, low wages and retirement pensions while others are calling for political change and for not dissolving the Parliament until it adopts the Election Code. They also threatened to erect a tent camp near the building of the Administration of the President until their demands are met. They include eliminating monopolies, a majority ballot, not adjourning the Parliament; the President appointing a program government instead of a caretaker one; drafting a Civil Participation Bill providing a 50% civil quota in all institutions; returning 51% of the shares of power utilities to the State; closing the Bulgarian Energy Holding, BEH, for draining the energy sector, summoning a Grand General Assembly, establishing a procedure to recall Members of the Parliament. These demands, on their part, have stirred fears of an attempt to return to Communism as there have been calls for nationalization and full abolishment of the political system and of all parties.
Violent Protest Against Former ND Minister
The ruling New Democracy Conservative party has condemned a violent protest against former minister, Makis Voridis, ahead of a press briefing in Kavala, northeastern Greece, where workers of Kavala Oil stormed the hotel where the event was to take place and caused extensive damage to the premises, while Voridis remained in his room. Workers were protesting a new contract for exploitation of fuel deposits in the Prinos oil field in the Aegean Sea which awards joint rights to the mother company Energean Oil & Gas. “The workers came here asking for trouble. We wanted to talk with them, but they didn’t give us a chance,” the local party organization said in a statement.
Voridis, while still a member of the far-right LAOS party, served as Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Networks in the coalition government headed by Lucas Papademos which ran from November, 2011 to the June 2102 elections. During that time he was tossed out of LAOS for supporting austerity measures but remained a minister. A few days later, he joined New Democracy and surrendered his parliamentary seat to LAOS, which failed to win enough of the vote in the 2012 elections to remain in Parliament. As Minister, Voridis was supposed to open up professions like taxi drivers, a measure he has previously opposed on multiple occasions. He failed to liberalize the professions as ordered to do so by the country’s international lenders.
Iranian farmers hold talks on water dispute after police clashes
Farmers from a drought-stricken Iranian province who clashed with security forces in a protest over water supply have met officials in an attempt to settle the dispute, local media reported. The farmers in central Isfahan province have for years protested against what they say is the unfair diversion of water from the Zayandeh Rud river to supply other areas, leaving their farms dry and threatening their livelihoods. A pipeline transporting water to Yazd province was smashed in February, the opposition website Kaleme said. A demonstration by farmers near the pipeline last week led to clashes with security forces and three police buses were set on fire, Kaleme reported.
Bomb kills 3 Posco protesters in India
A crude bomb exploded in a village in eastern India, killing three people involved in protests against a $12 billion steel plant project by South Korean giant Posco, police said yesterday. Police claimed the dead victims were suspected of making bombs themselves when one of them exploded Saturday in Patana village in Orissa state, but a protest group spokesman said they were attacked by supporters of the project.
“Three people died and one was crucially injured when the crude bomb went off. We suspect that the protesters were making bombs and one might have accidentally exploded,” district superintendent Satyabrata Bhoi told AFP. The village has been the epicentre of protests since Posco — the world’s fourth-biggest steelmaker by output — signed a pact with the state government in 2005 for the plant on 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of land. Local residents say the planned steel mill — touted as India’s biggest single foreign direct investment — would interfere with their traditional forest-based livelihoods and uproot them from their homes. Last month the state government started acquiring land from farmers for the project but halted it midway amid fresh protests from villagers. The land acquisition process was due to begin again on Monday. “Since the land acquisition process was to start again, the anti-Posco activists could have been making bombs,” the chief district administrator Satya Kumar Mallick told AFP.
But a spokesman for one of the protest groups claimed the victims had been attacked by supporters of the contentious project. “The authorities are indulging in false propaganda so that they can unleash more police violence on us,” said Abhay Sahu of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti. “In fact, three of our people died when Posco supporters hurled bombs at our people,” Sahu added.
Protest against power plant turns violent
Four civilians and six police personnel sustained injuries when residents of Singampalem village resorted to stone pelting as part of their ongoing agitation against the proposed power plant at Balavaram village of Ranampeta mandal in East Godavari district on Saturday. Police opened three rounds of fire in the air and clamped Section 144 to bring the situation under control. Residents of Singampalem, Balavaram and surrounding villages were staging agitations vehemently opposing the proposed power plant and unruly scenes prevailed even during the public hearing on the project last month.
To convince the people, KPR Fertilizers, the firm that was planning the power plant, was taking people in buses to the project site. On Saturday, when two such buses were moving towards Singampalem village, the residents stopped the buses and resorted to stone pelting. They did not even spare the buses which belonged to a private educational institution.
The police swung into action and resorted to caning to bring the situation under control. They even opened three rounds of fire and took into custody over two dozens of people. Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Kumar said that six police personnel sustained injuries during the stone pelting. It is learnt that four people from the village too were injured in the melee and are undergoing treatment in local private hospitals. “The situation is under control now,” Mr. Kumar said.