Riot police fired tear gas and used armored vehicles to subdue a protest over the mistreatment of a pregnant migrant worker eyewitnesses say was pushed to the ground by Chinese security officials. The riot there is now in its third night.
The riot broke out in the textile and manufacturing hub of Guangzhou China with about 1,000 people taking to the streets smashing windows, overturning and setting fire to cars, and hurling bricks and bottles at police.
25 people were arrested in the riot when news spread that a pregnant female worker in the town fell to the ground after being told to move her vending stall from in front of a supermarket. Some people say the woman was mistreated by the security force and pushed to the ground. The security forces have a reputation for thuggish behavior.
“The case was just an ordinary clash between street vendors and local public security people, but was used by a handful of people who wanted to cause trouble,” Zengcheng Mayor Ye Niuping was quoted by the China Daily newspaper as saying.
“There were many people out on the streets late last night, shouting and trying to create chaos. Some of them even smashed police vehicles,” said a worker from the nearby Fengcai clothing factory, adding that bosses barred employees from leaving the plant.
“There is a lot of pent up anger and frustration among ordinary people – not just migrant workers,” said Geoff Crothall of Hong Kong’s China Labour Bulletin, noting the different causes behind the recent outbreaks of unrest.
But he added: “There are many towns in Guangdong which are still very much [divided between] locals and outsiders. Migrant workers are still doing the lowest paid, dirtiest jobs and suffer discrimination on a daily basis. That’s going to cause resentment and anger to build up.”
The incident is not suprising in China where complaints about corruption and abuse by government officials are common. A BBC correspondent pointed out that incidents happen like this in China every week though they are often not reported by the news in order to control the population.