A senior Chinese security official said the Beijing Olympics are threatened by sabotage and unrest, state media said on Friday, as authorities moved to sack officials blamed for a riot that torched a police headquarters.
The trouble in Guizhou province in the southwest on Saturday came as China seeks to quell any signs of unrest ahead of the Games in August. Vice Minister of Public Security Yang Huanning told police officials that the Games would be a target for forces hostile to China's ruling Communist Party.
"The current international and domestic situation is full of complications," Yang told the meeting, according to the People's Public Security News.
"Especially as the Beijing Olympic Games draw near, a range of anti-China forces and hostile forces are striving by any means and redoubling efforts to engage in trouble-making and sabotage."
Yang, recently appointed to his post and called an "anti-terror expert" by official media, told a separate meeting to minimise the flow of aggrieved citizens journeying to Beijing to press petitions over official abuses, the China News Service reported.
China has taken sweeping steps to prevent any protests or violence during the Games in August, and the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang have been a particular target.
Yang's warnings came as officials sought to swiftly mop up a riot in Weng'an County, Guizhou, that has underscored the currents of discontent underneath the country's dizzying growth.
Residents there torched a police headquarters and many vehicles on Saturday, demanding justice after claims spread that police had covered up as a suicide the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl.
Police have denied that relatives of officials had anything to do with the girl's death and said she killed herself by jumping into a river. They have also promised a fresh autopsy.
But with officials now acknowledging that the anger reflected broader lapses in policing, provincial authorities announced the dismissal of Shen Guirong, the public security chief of Weng'an, and Luo Laiping, chief of the county's legal affairs committee. Their dismissal must be approved by the county's people's congress and party committee, a formality in China's top-down political system.
The Communist Party secretary of Guizhou, Shi Zongyuan, said officials had mishandled public tensions over mining development, housing demolitions and resident resettlement, Xinhua reported.
"In handling these conflicts, disputes and mass incidents, some officials acted crudely, had simplistic work methods and even arbitrarily wielded police force," Shi told officials, according to Xinhua.
Shi said Weng'an authorities had mobilised police to quell public complaints that should have been defused by officials, and police had allowed crime to spread unchecked.
"This incident may appear to be random, but in fact it was inevitable," Shi said, adding that the county leaders bore "unshirkable responsibility".
Xinhua said about 30,000 people took part in the protest and 150 police and residents were injured, but there were no deaths. More than 40 vehicles were torched.