CHINA: New protests and riots worry Beijing
At least four workers' protests or riots have broken out in recent weeks in China, prompting media blackout or outright repression.
On October 22, more than 10,000 workers and pensioners in the city of Benghu in Anhui province took to the streets protesting about deteriorating health care and the failure to index the retired workers' pension to the fast rising cost of living, according the New York-based China Labor Watch. In September, China's consumer price index rose 5.2% from a year ago, with grain prices up 31.7%. Gasoline prices have risen 17% so far this year.
According to the October 20 Hong Kong-based Ming Pao Daily, on October 18, 30,000-40,000 angry protesters put the local government of Wanzhou district, 300 kilometres from Chongqing city, under seige.
A minor street row, triggered by threats and the bashing of a labourer, exploded into a major riot after it was rumoured that the attacker was an official. Rioters burnt a number of police vehicles and damaged the government building, which the police answered with teargas and rubber bullets.
According to an October 25 Knight Ridder report, on October 4, hundreds in the Sanchawan village near Yulin in Shaanxi province protested a relocation plan that would push 15,000 peasants off their land. They complained that the compensation was a pittance and claimed the act was illegal. In response, riot police opened fire, wounding more than 50 villagers.
Meanwhile, in Xianyang City, also in Shaanxi province, more than 6000 workers, mostly women, struck on September 14 after the new owner of their recently privatised employer, Tianwang Textile Factory, sought to seriously undermine their employment conditions. The new owner, China Resources, sought to terminate all workers and reemploy them all as inexperienced workers, at much-reduced pay and without accrued retirement or medical benefits.
According to the October 14 Epoch Times, the workers have maintained a round-the-clock picket-cum-vigil ever since the strike broke out, staffed by up to 1000 workers who have been heard singing the "Internationale" loudly.
From Green Left Weekly, November 3, 2004.
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