The two eruptions of peasant violence in the hills near here offer a glimpse of a much larger wave of popular unrest. Thousands of protests break out every year in China’s cities and villages, even though such demonstrations are prohibited. The protests have become a major concern for President Hu Jintao’s government, which is anxious to prevent them from spreading and undermining stability and, ultimately, the Communist Party’s hold on power.
The village party chiefs and elected leaders here have not played their assigned role of enforcing government authority because of a shared outrage that the county and provincial officials charged with protecting the environment have not protected the rivers, peasants said. After one trashing spree, officials from a nearby town even bought lunch for the hungry peasants.