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Mass protests in Chinese city Chongqing

Beijing: Mass protests continued in south- western Chinese city of Chongqing, the base of the purged charismatic Communist party leader Bo Xilai, with the authorities maintaining that the upsurge had nothing to do with his axing.

Over 10,000 people protested in the city forcing the police to fire tear gas shells on Wednesday to "disperse the protesters". Meanwhile, Chinese officials claimed that the demonstrations have nothing to do with his ouster. Police said, demonstrators left on Wednesday night and traffic resumed in the district.

Social order has been restored after thousands of protesters demonstrated against district merger in south western city of Chongqing for the past two days, local authorities said, state-run Xinhua reported today. "No one died in the rally though there were small clashes between the police and protesters. Those who suffered minor injuries in the clashes were all sent to hospitals," it said.

People began to rally in several places in the Wansheng economic development zone of Qijiang district on Tuesday and the protest swelled to nearly 10,000 people on Wednesday, blocking expressway exits and roads and smashing and setting fires to police cars, it said.

Officials from the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said the protest was related to the people`s economic interests, and had no connection with the case of Wang Lijun, Chongqing`s former police chief, or the investigation of Bo Xilai, former Party chief of Chongqing, it said.

Till recently Bo headed the city as Mayor and its Communist Party chief, until Wang, who was the police chief of the city under him took shelter in US Consulate after falling out with Bo. This lead to major crackdown by central government against Bo and his support his base in Chongqing.

Bo was sacked from all party positions pending an inquiry on Tuesday while his wife Gu Kailai and his orderly were arrested for the murder of British national Neil Heywood.

Xinhua quoted a local official as saying that the protest was triggered by the merger between the former Wansheng district and Qijiang county, which were regrouped as Qijiang district at the end of last year.

Disgruntled residents from Wansheng complained that their business was affected after the merger while some worried about the lowering of their healthcare standard, it said.

Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan rushed to the scene to persuade the protestors to return, and the municipal government issued a guide on Wednesday, promising the smooth economic development of Wansheng by offering preferential policies to former Wansheng residents.

In another development a commentary to be published by the Communist Party run People`s Daily called for maintaining reform and sought the support of the people in the light of Party`s decision to investigate Bo Xilai for "serious violations of discipline".

The central authority`s decision and the reinvestigation have aroused "strong reactions" among Party members and the society, and government officials and the masses firmly support the decision it said, in its commentary which is the second in as many days.

The role of Bo`s wife and his orderly in Heywood murder was "highly suspect" it said. The central authority`s decision against Bo is based on facts and respects the rule of law. It conforms to the Party`s will and public opinion, and embodies the Party`s political courage to seek truth from facts and strong will to maintain the Party`s purity and socialist rule of law, it said.

It urged Chinese people to understand the significance of the central authority`s decision, and consciously act in line with the party, with "Comrade Hu Jintao as the general secretary". President Hu Jintao is also the head of the party.

Currently, China is in a critical period of building a well-off society and deepening reform as well as speeding up transformation of the economic development pattern, the commentary said.

The Chinese people should firmly support the CPC Central Committee`s decision, and unite closer around the CPC Central Committee to push forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, it said.

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