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Thousands of Chinese residents have been rioting in southwest China over the last few days as citizens confront local officials over a campaign of forced abortions there.

The protests began after family planning authorities began forcibly aborting women for violations of the nation’s one-child population policy.

As has previously reported, Chinese family planning officials in Guangxi province forced at least 61 women in April to have abortions as late as seven and nine months into pregnancy.

Women said were forced to have abortions because they were unmarried, while other women were married and pregnant with their second child.

The abortions have all occurred at the Youjiang District People’s Hospital of Baise City, where local officials denied the forced abortions were occurring. Because of the alleged violations of the family planning policy, officials in Guangxi recently increased fines for offenders and began seizing or destroying the property of people who cannot pay the fines.

Officials have issued fines from 500 yuan, or about $65, to 70,000 yuan, or about $9,000, on families who violated the policy at any time since 1980. But some of the citizens of the area say the fines were instituted even on people who had already paid them.

However, failure to pay the fines is leading officials to destroy homes of those who don’t cough up the money.

Responding to the government’s actions, local people in Guangxi overturned cars and set fire to government buildings and riot police entered at least four towns in the province to suppress the protesters.

[23May07, Beijing, China]