Construction Workers Riot in Kanmen Town, Zhejiang

12:59 Jul 10 2008 Kanmen Yuhuan County Zhejiang China

BEIJING Migrant workers in eastern China rioted and protested for three days last week, officials said, vowing tough steps to quell the latest ripple of unrest ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

The clashes broke out in Yuhuan County in coastal Zhejiang province, where dizzying manufacturing growth has attracted a torrent of migrant workers from poor parts of the countryside.

The county government gave a sparse account of the confrontation on a local official Web site (yhnews.zjol.com.cn). But officials left no doubt they were alarmed.

“This was a grave crime of obstructing public security organs in carrying out their duties and assembling a crowd to attack state offices,” a deputy head of the Yuhuan police force, Weng Zhengui, told local reporters, according to the Web site.

“We will thoroughly investigate it, sternly attack and show no softness.”

Thousands of protests, riots and “mass incidents” occur in China every year, most of them small and never openly reported.

But the recent ripple of reported unrest comes at a tense time, with Beijing readying for the Games in August that it has promoted as a show of social progress and harmony.

Rioting broke out in Kanmen town in Yuhuan on the night of July 10 after a migrant worker surnamed Zhang came to a local law-and-order office to complain about injuries from “colliding with a wall” there the previous day, said the account posted late on Sunday. The report did not say how he collided with the wall.

Zhang agreed to be taken to a hospital by police, but on the way an angry crowd surrounded the police and yanked the fuel pipes out of six of their motorcycles.

“Seeing that the situation was tense, the police decided to first withdraw, but while they were doing so the surrounding crowd threw rocks at them, injuring three police officers.”

The report did not say how many rioters attacked the police, but did note that 23 people were “dealt with according to the law” after authorities regained control.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a group that often reports on unrest in China, said 300 anti-riot police were deployed to restore control.

Calls to village and county offices were not answered.

But on the following night, angry migrant workers again assembled in front of the Kanmen police station to “stir trouble,” the report said, and again on July 12 a crowd surrounded the station and smashed some windows.

Weeks before the Beijing Olympics, Chinese officials have been told to keep a tight lid on any flickers of unrest.

But a riot involving 30,000 in the southwest Chinese town of Wengan Fugu County, Shaanxi province has prompted widespread media discussion about the sources of continued discontent.

Officials in Yuhuan said they would issue rules to strengthen management of migrant workers while also opening a “rights defence centre” for them.

From NY Times:

Hundreds of migrant workers angry over the mistreatment of a fellow worker rioted for three days in eastern China, surrounding a police station and smashing cars and motorbikes, a human rights organization based in Hong Kong said Monday.

The riot began Thursday in Kanmen, a town in Zhejiang Province, reported the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Three hundred military police officers arrived Sunday, and 30 migrant workers were detained, the group said. No injuries were reported.

A woman who answered the telephone at the public security bureau in Kanmen denied that workers broke into the police station or burned vehicles, saying they only gathered in the streets and shouted in protest. The woman did not give her name, as is common with officials in China.

The rights group said the unrest in Kanmen was centered on a migrant worker who was alleged to have been beaten by a security guard while trying to get a temporary residence permit.

The violence comes just weeks after a crowd of 30,000 people in Guizhou Province, southwest China, set fire to a police station, angry over what many believed was a cover-up of the death of a teenage girl by the local authorities.

Such incidents are an embarrassment to officials, especially in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, which start Aug. 8.

According to the rights group, when the worker in Zhejiang Province went to the police with a group of other workers to complain about the man who beat him, he was detained. This triggered the protest in which hundreds of workers converged outside the police station, burning police cars and motorcycles, and later throwing stones.

The report did not give any other details about the incident, including why the worker was beaten.

A notice posted on the Web site of Yuhuan County, which oversees Kanmen, said the July 10 "incident" was being investigated but did not describe what the incident was.

It "has caused a strong backlash by society, and the public is very concerned about the truth, and about how it was dealt with, and how the local offices have recovered," the notice said.

Thousands of migrant workers have flocked to the area, and the situation has put pressure on the government, it said.

Also on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said that the police in Guizhou Province had detained 100 people, including 39 members of what it said were local gangs, for involvement in the protest last month over the death of the student in the town of Weng'an.
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