Rioters destroy Chinese resort

PEKING (Reuter) - Hundreds of tourists fled in terror from a scenic spot in China as it was blown to pieces by bomb-throwing mobs in a 36-hour orgy of rioting and destruction, the Yangcheng Evening News reported.

Sightseers from Macau and Hong Kong were among those caught up in the assault last month on the Ling Xiao Yan resort in China's richest province of Guangdong, the paper said.

The resort, which features boat rides on a river flowing through a cavern, was attacked by several hundred people from a neighbouring city armed with crude explosives and pellet guns. The paper said the assault was caused by a local boundary war, but gave no background to the dispute that sparked one of the most serious outbreaks of civil disorder reported in China in recent years.

Police retreated as the area was systematically destroyed. Invaders looted and blew up a police station and power plant, and caused losses estimated at 4.4m yuan ( pounds 530,000).

Chinese state media rarely report serious breakdowns of law and order, but may have been forced to do so this time as foreigners were involved.

The paper said the assault began on 26 January during the Lunar New Year holiday when shots were fired into the cave, which was packed with about 1,000 visitors, some on boats. Explosions then ripped through the cave openings. 'People were in total panic, they didn't know what to do,' the paper said. As tourists retreated into the open air, the attackers rained explosives from a mountain, destroying a basketball court.

Despite a night of violence 100 buses turned up the next day, more than 40 of them carrying tourists from nearby Hong Kong and the Portuguese-run territory of Macau, apparently indicating a complete breakdown of communication and authority.

That day the police station was attacked and looted. A restaurant in the cavern was wrecked. 'There was glass everywhere and broken pottery,' the newspaper said. Explosions could still be heard early in the morning on 28 January. A total of 30 buildings were destroyed by 700 explosions.

The resort is a big tourist draw a two-hour drive from the provincial capital, Guangzhou. Many of its outstanding natural features were blasted to bits, the newspaper said. It did not say whether anyone was arrested.

The report highlights the fact that Communist authorities have tenuous control over large sections of rural China, where clan organisations and secret societies still hold sway, and battle over grievances dating back centuries.

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