Chinese Bomb Blast Adds to Unrest

By JEREMY PAGE in Beijing and JAMES T. AREDDY in Shanghai

A man seeking "revenge on society" set off at least one bomb outside a local government headquarters in northeastern China, state media reported, the latest in a spate of violent incidents that highlight growing public anger at official corruption and abuse of power.

The blast, in the port city of Tianjin, slightly injured two people, the state-run Xinhua news agency said. It was the third explosion at government facilities over the past three weeks. Police have also faced violent unrest among migrant street vendors in one southern Chinese city and among residents of another city in central China in the last few days.

The unrest comes as China's government, unnerved by Mideast unrest, is in the midst of a sustained crackdown on dissent ahead of the party's 90th anniversary on July 1, and for a once-a-decade leadership change next year, when President Hu Jintao and others are due to retire from their party posts.

Incidents of unrest used to be concentrated in rural areas, experts say, but are increasingly happening in cities, too. The series of blasts at government facilities are especially worrying for China's Communist Party leaders as explosives chemicals for which are widely available across the country are not frequently used in such protests and could trigger copycat attacks, analysts say.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly denied the need for democratic reforms, while calling instead for limited reforms within the party and better "social management." But tThe recent events illustrate the scale and the complexity of the problems China's leaders face amid public anger over issues including land and labor rights, corruption, inflation, property prices, and scandals over food and the environment.

In one of the latest such scandals, Xinhua reported Sunday that more than 600 people, including 103 children, had been found to suffer from lead poisoning in the eastern province of Zhejiang. Such reports of mass lead poisonings have become increasingly common in China in recent years, reflecting both the pervasiveness of industrial pollution and the government's efforts to be more open about them.Workers and their children in 25 family-run tinfoil workshops in Zhejiang's Yangxunqiao township had dangerously high levels of lead in their blood, according to a preliminary medical test, it said. Twelve victims were being treated in the hospital, and all of the 25 workshops had suspended operations, Xinhua said.

State media reports blamed the Tianjin blast, which took place Friday, on a man who they said had problems with gambling and family members and was seeking "revenge against society." Some state media reports said the man, identified only by his surname, Lin, was carrying 20 handmade bombs each roughly the size and shape of a soda can and had thrown four of them at the government building in the Hexi district of Tianjin, a port city about 60 miles east of Beijing. The reports didn't make clear how many of the bombs had exploded, or give further details about the blast or the suspect. Local officials contacted declined to comment.

The attack occurred just over two weeks after a 52-year-old man identified as Qian Mingqi was blamed for three blasts in the city of Fuzhou in the southern province of Jiangxi. Mr. Qian, who was killed in one of the blasts, had expressed frustration in an Internet posting over his inability to win redress for an "illegally removed" building in 2002 and threatened: "I could take action I don't want to take."

Associated Press

A car at the site of a May explosion blamed on a man protesting a building removal in Fuzhou in China's Jiangxi province.

Another explosion on Thursday destroyed most of a multistory police station and killed a police driver in Huangshi township in southern Hunan province, according to the local government and to the English-language China Daily newspaper.

Local officials said that blast was caused by the accidental detonation of confiscated explosive that were stored in the police station, but some Chinese Internet postings speculated that it might have been another revenge attack on corrupt police.

The blasts come amid a clampdown on dissent in which security agencies have already detained dozens of dissidents, including the contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, since anonymous calls for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China began circulating online in mid-February.

Authorities are also struggling with continuing ethnic tensions, illustrated last month when hundreds of Mongolian students protested in the northern region of Inner Mongolia after a truck driver from the ethnic Han Chinese majority run over and killed a Mongolian herder trying to stop coal convoys crossing pastureland.

Meanwhile, the plight of migrant workers among the most vulnerable to official abuses were highlighted Sunday, when police said that 25 people were arrested after a clash between migrant street vendors and security forces in Xintang town near the city of Guangzhou on Saturday night.

A statement posted on the Guangzhou police website said "troublemakers" blocked traffic and damaged vehicles, forcing police to "adopt measures" to prevent the incident from escalating further.

Police brutality, corruption, and land rights were also the focus of riots in the central province of Hubei last week over the mysterious death in police custody of a low-level Chinese bureaucrat who challenged a land deal backed by higher-level officials.

Paramilitary police had to be called in to end the unrest in the small city of Lichuan which erupted after Ran Jianxin died in official custody on June 4 while being interrogated over allegations that he took bribes, authorities said. Photographs published on the Internet appeared to show police patrolling the city in armored vehicles.

 Yang Jie and Bai Lin in Shanghai and Kersten Zhang
and Helen Qu in Beijing contributed to this article.

Write to Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com and James T. Areddy at james.areddy@wsj.com

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