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Conflicts raise the alarm with local government
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The Vice Party Secretary of Puer City's Menglian County said that the government will make local people's interests its top priority. He made the announcement on July 23, four days after the "7.19" incident.

On July 19, more than 500 rubber farmers from Menglian, Yunnan Province, engaged in conflict with 58 policemen, resulting in two dead and 60 injured. The angry farmers surrounded policemen and attacked them, forcing the police to open fire in their defense.

According to Li Jiheng, vice Party secretary of Yunnan Province, the farmers were angered by the fact that the government had failed to act in a timely fashion to resolve issues between rubber companies and the farmers.

Yu Jianrong, a researcher from the Rural Affairs Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "Villagers will quickly lose control when the government does not act upon their concerns."

The Menglian riot is not an isolated incident. From June 28 to June 29, crowds of local people rioted against the government of Wen’an County, Guizhou Province, demanding to know the real cause of a girl student's death. In addition, on July 3, a farmer drowned in the Yellow River when he dived into the river to avoid police questioning. His death caused a riot in Fugu County, Shaanxi Province.

Professor Xia Xueluan from the Department Sociology of Peking University, said: "The government cannot afford to neglect social problems. It should tackle with them quickly so that minor problems don't develop into major ones."

According to Xia, the government should not send in the police as a first resort whenever problems occur. This will create the impression that people are being suppressed.

Above all, public faith in the government is the important issue. Yu Jianrong said the government should improve communication with the public, and in cases of conflict let the public know the truth before rumors take hold and fan the flames.

(China.org.cn by Wu Jin, August 14, 2008)

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