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Chinese villagers riot over one-child policy

.- Thousands of villagers in southwest China rioted last weekend against the state’s one-child policy, attacking family planning officials, overturning cars and setting fire to government buildings.

At the height of the demonstrations on Saturday, a crowd of several thousand stormed the Shapi municipal office, pulled down a wall and chased and beat officials from the family planning department, reported Guardian Unlimited.

Riot police were dispatched to at least four townships in the Guanxi autonomous region. Hong Kong media reported that the riots led to multiple injuries and possibly two deaths.

The riot came in the wake of a new crackdown by the Bobai county government against families that break birth control regulations.

Under state policies, dating back to the late 1970s, most urban couples can only have one child. Families from rural areas and ethnic minorities can have two children, especially if the first is a girl.

Financial penalties have increased and parents who fail to pay are being punished by having their property confiscated or destroyed.

A student from the area told the Guardian that his parents were fined 2,000 yuan because they had three sons in the 1980s. He said his uncle, who has five children and earns only 1,200 per month, was fined 20,000 yuan.

On Internet chat rooms locals said officials have confiscated cattle, DVD players, crockery and other household goods to make up for unpaid fines.

“Before we used to force women to have abortions but now the target seems to have changed to raising money,” one female state official told the Guardian. “I hate this job, but I have no choice."

Another local man said the riot started after state workers bulldozed the house of a poor farmer who could not afford the fine. The farmer reportedly went to the municipal office to protest and returned with three broken fingers, stirring up anger in his community.

Local governments and police stations have refused to comment. The state-run media has been forbidden from reporting on the incident. But online photographs show smashed cars, burning buildings and a rioter stealing a computer monitor. There were also images of work squads in army fatigues carrying sledge hammers.

The one-child policy has become a symbol of the wealth gap in China. Earlier this month, government officials admitted that many rich families violated the rules because they could afford the fines.

According to the ministry of public security, there were 87,000 protests reported in 2005, up 50 per cent from 2003.

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