BEIJING, Jan. 19 - Chinese took to the streets to protest land seizures, corruption, pollution and unpaid wages in record numbers in 2005, the national police said Thursday, with mass incidents that involved violent confrontations or attacks on government property surging at the fastest rate.
The number of "public order disturbances" rose 6.6 percent last year, to 87,000. Mass protests that involved "disturbing social order" jumped 13 percent, while those that "interfered with government functions" surged 19 percent, the Public Security Bureau, the national police, told Chinese reporters at a news conference on Thursday that was reported by the New China News Agency.
Although the mounting social disorder has not slowed China's economy, which continues to power ahead at nearly a double-digit clip, it does present a major challenge to the Communist Party, which has struggled to resolve the grievances of those left behind in the long boom.
Peasants, migrant workers and former employees of bankrupt state-run factories in the cities - collectively the overwhelming majority of China's 1.3 billion people - have tended to benefit far less from the prosperity than the budding urban middle class and the party elite.
Most legal scholars say that courts are too weak and tightly controlled to resolve grievances that ordinary people have against the government or the party.
In 1994, the police recorded about 10,000 protest incidents, but the statistics show that both the frequency and the scale of the unrest have increased rapidly every year since, even as the economy has expanded faster than that of any other major country.
Unrest has worsened especially quickly in the last several years because the government has seized millions of acres of rural land, which peasants can farm but not own, to make way for factories and real estate developments. Compensation is very low and many peasants say they have no choice but to protest to win attention for their claims.
The scale of unrest is extraordinary for any country in peacetime, with an average of 240 incidents each day. In 2004, when the country had 74,000 recorded protest events, 3.76 million people were involved, the police said. They were no figures provided for the total number of protesters in 2005.