Friday, May 23, 2008

China - profiteering sparks protests

A police car lies on its side after protests over profiteering

Officials in China have said that 50 hazardous radioactive sources and 4 chemical leaks have been identified in the earthquake zone, Channel Four News reported on Friday. At least 15 sites are said to be unreachable. The news was downplayed on the Xinhua website which said most of the radioactive isotopes had been made safe and the environment had not been contaminated. AP reported that 15 radioactive sources were still being sought by recovery workers. Meanwhile there have been protests which saw the overturning of at least one police car when an angry crowd gathered outside a shop in Deyang believed to be selling aid supplies [Reuters]. There have also been reports of aid convoys being held up by desperate survivors. Several thousand people in Luojiang, near Deyang, recently surrounded a truck delivering goods meant for quake relief to a store for sale according to some reports.

Ming Pao reported Deyang incident on Friday. The Hong Kong based publication said that a lorry a stopped front of a store to unload goods including ham sausage, "eight treasure" congee, instant noodles & bottled water. People gathered believing the consignment was part of the large amount of aid pouring into the area. However, the truck left without completing its delivery creating suspicion amongst some members of the building crowd. Police were called and according to reports a military jeep not displaying plates arrived on the scene along with at least one police vehicle. The occupants of the jeep then loaded the goods previously dropped off by the lorry into their vehicle. On trying to leave part of the crowd attempted to stop the jeep but despite the large numbers, police managed to escort the vehicle away. Laying siege to the store, the crowd demanded an explanation from the authorities. A man was reportedly taken from the store by police as some shouted anti-corruption slogans at officials who had begun to arrive at the scene. One source said that the deputy public security bureau director was hit with a wine bottle to cheers of “good job”. Police rushed into the melee to rescue the official named later as Yan Chongping. Violence flared up again into the evening and at least one police vehicle was damaged after angry members of the crowd jumped upon it and turned it on its side. The crowd eventually dispersed after officials promised a full investigation.

Ming Pao later reported that three people had been arrested over corruption and embezzlement. Sichuan Chen Kefu, deputy director of the Home Office said yesterday that such acts are despicable, must be severely punished. Some reports suggested that some individuals were obtaining relief supplies to resell for profit. Other reports suggest officials have been guilty of diverting tents from the victims to their own friends and relatives.A deputy police chief was sent to hospital. According to official figures, nearly 56,000 have died in China’s worst natural disaster in over 30 years.

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