The authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan said on Monday that plans for a regional railroad line were still under discussion after thousands of people took to the streets in protest over reports that the line would bypass their community.
The demonstrations in Linshui County, an area about 60 miles northeast of the city of Chongqing, follow a different pattern from many large-scale demonstrations in China, which are often in opposition to factories or other development plans that residents fear will increase pollution or otherwise damage living standards.
Linshui, with a population of about one million, does not have a train station or an airport, and protesters said they hoped linking to China’s railroad network would improve economic development.
Protests on Saturday and Sunday around a highway toll station in Linshui turned violent at times, with video showing the police hitting demonstrators with batons and some protesters throwing rocks at the riot police. Photos shared on social media showed some residents bleeding heavily from head injuries. The local government said on Monday that 38 bystanders and 30 police officers were injured and that an ambulance and two cars were burned. The government said no one was killed in the confrontations.
The discontent in Linshui was set off by conflicting responses from local governments about what route would be used by the planned 125-mile train line between the Sichuan city of Dazhou and Chongqing, according to domestic news reports. On May 7, the government website of Guangan, a prefectural-level city that includes Linshui, said experts were recommending a western route that would bypass Linshui, according to a report in Southern Metropolis Daily, based in Guangzhou. But a week later, Dazhou’s website said the line would in fact pass through Linshui, the newspaper reported.
The Southern Metropolis Daily article was deleted from its website, an indication that censors have moved to limit coverage of the incident. Posts with the word “Linshui” were also being censored on the Sina Weibo microblog service on Monday, according to the monitoring site FreeWeibo.com.
The Linshui government notice on Monday said that more than 40 people were arrested on Saturday and 20 more were arrested on Sunday for blocking traffic and damaging property.
Follow Austin Ramzy on Twitter at @austinramzy.