China police detain 46 after violent protest over schooling

BEIJING — Police in central China have detained 46 people who were part of a protest against a government plan to address overcrowded classrooms that escalated into violence.

Police in the city of Leiyang in Hunan province said on their official microblog that the people were detained early Sunday as officers dispersed around 600 protesters who had gathered outside the local police station on Saturday night.

They said some of the protesters hurled plastic water bottles, bricks, firecrackers and beer bottles, injuring more than 30 police and auxiliary police officers and damaging several vehicles. Police attributed the violence to "good-for-nothings" who were looking for trouble.

An official at the Leiyang city government who would only give his surname, Zeng, said the parents were protesting the city government's plan to transfer students from overcrowded public schools to expensive private schools.

Some parents were concerned that their children were exposed to toxic formaldehyde fumes at the dormitory to which they were being transferred, he said. He repeated the police's assertion that troublemakers were using the protest to cause issues for the authorities.

"Some lawless people are making use of this as an opportunity to stir up trouble," Zeng said by phone.

Calls to the police and schools affected by the plans rang unanswered Sunday.

The protest began earlier on Saturday with parents gathering and hoisting banners outside six local schools and the city's Communist Party committee building and blocking roads. Police said they took away five protesters who were disrupting traffic.

The protesters later marched from the party committee building to the police station to demand the release of the five who had been detained. As the protest grew, police took away another 10 people but let them go home under escort after verifying that they were parents of students affected by the transfer plans.

Police said that shortly after midnight Saturday, they forcefully dispersed the protesters after repeated warnings failed and detained the 46 people after the protest turned violent.

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