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3 Freed, New Chief In Chinese City After Protest

Fri, 07/06/2012 - 9:52am

BEIJING (AP) — Police have released three people detained earlier this week for throwing flower pots, bricks and stones at officers during a protest against an alloy copper plant project, authorities in a southwestern Chinese city said.

The Shifang city government in Sichuan province also announced late Thursday that an official was appointed as the city's first party chief, a leadership change that may indicate further investigation into the protest.

Thousands of local residents — concerned over the copper project's environmental and public health risks — started to gather in front of the city government building and in a public square Sunday. Many were high school and college students.

The protest turned violent when riot police moved in Monday. Police used tear gas, stun grenades and batons to disperse crowds. Several dozen people were injured, and police took away 27. The use of force stoked new anger from residents, who also demanded those detained be released.

By Tuesday, police had freed 21 people. Three remained in custody Friday suspected of smashing and overturning police vehicles during the protests. Shifang city spokesman Chen Lin said none of the three was a student.

Authorities have since scrapped plans for the project and promised the plant will never be built.

Shifang was badly hit in a 2008 earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 and left more than 18,000 missing. City officials had said the copper plant project was needed to help Shifang rebuild its economy.

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