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China detains rumour-monger who sparked riots

Police in southern China have announced they have detained a person suspected of spreading rumours on the Internet that triggered violent clashes and a major security clampdown.

The public security bureau in Guangzhou announced on their official page on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that the suspect surnamed Chen was detained on Tuesday and had confessed to publishing false information online.

The clashes in Xintang, a district in the greater Guangzhou area, began last Friday after rumours spread that police had beaten a street hawker to death and manhandled his pregnant wife.

Authorities were forced to deploy hundreds of officers and armoured vehicles as the protests continued into the weekend, with people hurling bricks and bottles at local officials and police, and vandalising ATMs and police posts.

Armed police reportedly used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and at least 25 people have been arrested so far.

The man rumoured to have been killed appeared at a press conference held by the local government on Sunday, saying he, his wife and their unborn baby girl were "doing very well".

"The false information spread on Weibo, QQ (China's popular instant messaging service) and online forums had a nasty influence on society," the police said late Wednesday.

The riots in Guangdong province, China's industrial heartland, are the latest in a recent flare-up of unrest in the country, which analysts say highlights resentment towards an unresponsive government.

Last Thursday, 1,500 people clashed with riot squads in the central province of Hubei following the alleged death in police custody of a local legislator.

Earlier last week, hundreds of people battled police and destroyed cars in another incident in Guangdong province, after a factory worker was wounded in a knife attack over a wage dispute.

And late last month, thousands of ethnic Mongols protested in northern China for several days after the killing of a herder laid bare simmering anger over what some perceive as Chinese oppression.

The protests have compounded the jitters of a government already wary about the potential for Arab-style unrest to spread to China, and for rising inflation to spark more violence.

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