BEIJING -- Police yesterday patrolled a village in southern China where a teenage girl reportedly was clubbed to death during a protest over land seizures, and Hong Kong news reports quoted villagers as saying demonstrations would continue.
The girl reportedly was killed Saturday by police who clashed with hundreds of people protesting over what they said was inadequate compensation for farmland taken for industrial use in Sanjiao, a village in Guangdong province.
Increasingly violent clashes have erupted in areas throughout China's vast, poor countryside over land seizures for factories, shopping malls, and other projects.
The disputes are a key concern for communist leaders, who worry about possible unrest among the 800 million rural Chinese, many of whom have been left behind by the country's 25-year-old economic boom. Local leaders have been ordered to see that grievances are addressed and protests quickly contained.
''The government wants the land. What can we do?" said a woman contacted by phone yesterday in Sanjiao who would not give her name. ''It's not convenient for me to say any more."
Dozens of villagers contacted by phone yesterday offered little about the protest, apparently out of fear of official retaliation.
In a rare break with their usual silence about protests, state media have denied that anyone was killed in Sanjiao or that police used violence. But numerous accounts by villagers and Hong Kong media reported the girl's death and said police attacked protesters with electric batons.
''The villagers will continue to protest until this issue is resolved," the Hong Kong newspaper The Standard quoted a villager identified only by the surname Tan as saying. ''Farmland is important to farmers. They need their land."
The newspaper quoted another villager as saying, ''A lot of people say this thing is not over . . . they have been pushed against the wall with no other alternative."
The parents of the dead girl -- said to be either 13 or 15 -- have been paid up to $25,000 on condition they say she had died of a heart attack, Hong Kong news reports said, citing unnamed villagers. That sum is huge for a farm family in China, where the average household in a village such as Sanjiao might get by on the equivalent of a few hundred dollars a year.
The girl's body was cremated Monday, Hong Kong's Sing Tao newspaper said.
The government, in a statement carried by its official Xinhua News Agency, blamed villagers for the violence.
The violence occurred a month after authorities opened fire into a crowd of protesting villagers in Dongzhou, also in Guangdong, a densely populated province of more than 100 million people in which farmers and factories compete for scarce land.
The government said three people were killed in Dongzhou, while villagers put the death toll at up to 20.
The government tried to defuse public anger by announcing that the commander of the forces in Dongzhou had been detained, but there has been no word of any punishment for that commander or any other officials.
Government figures show there were 74,000 cases of rural unrest in 2004.
The clash in Sanjiao began after villagers staged a sit-in at government offices last week, according to state media.
On Saturday, a demonstration by about 100 villagers attracted a crowd of about 500 others, the reports said.
''A few troublemakers started throwing bricks, stones, and burning firecrackers at policemen and bystanders," said the newspaper Zhongshan Daily in Zhongshan, a city that oversees Sanjiao. The newspaper said Monday that 25 people were questioned and four have been detained. It said police reinforcements had been called up to maintain order.
A waitress who refused to give her name said yesterday that on the night of the protests, hundreds of people swarmed near her restaurant and tried to block the highway to get the government's attention.
''I heard an official speaking through a loudspeaker," the waitress said. ''He was telling villagers to go back home, but they just weren't listening."