HONG KONG — At least 1,000 villagers battled police in southern China in a riot that left several people dead and dozens wounded, newspapers said Sunday.
Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po and Apple Daily newspapers differed widely on the size of the mob and what led to the clash Saturday in Da Lang village in Guangdong province. Both said the riot started after security forces beat a resident to death.
Wen Wei Po said nearly 50,000 people faced off against hundreds of police officers and torched four police cars. About a dozen village security officers were hurt in the dispute that sparked the riot, the newspaper said.
The Apple Daily, meanwhile, put the size of the crowd at 1,000. Police fired tear gas at the rioters, the newspaper said. It quoted a villager as saying that several local people were killed and 100 were injured.
Wen Wei Po said the incident began with a dispute over compensation for a traffic accident. The disagreement flared into a riot when local security forces beat to death a relative of the accident victim, the newspaper said.
Apple Daily said the security forces sparked the unrest by beating to death a 15-year-old boy for stealing a bicycle. It said police brought the riot under control in three hours and later arrested about a dozen people.
Whatever the cause, the unrest was the latest in a string of riots and clashes in rural China that have highlighted discontent over rampant corruption and abuse of power and a growing gap between rich and poor.
Police and government officials refused to confirm details of the incident. "The riot is over," said an official in Dongguan, a city that includes Da Lang.
The official referred all inquiries to the Communist Party propaganda office in Dongguan, where phones rang unanswered.