The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 72/No. 31      August 4, 2008

Protests by Chinese migrant
workers, farmers are on rise
(front page)
Thousands of protests take place in China every year; most of them never make it into the news. But in the last couple of months a half dozen incidents in widely separated regions highlight what Beijing itself calls a “rising number of social discontent cases.”

In an attempt to quell the protests, the Chinese government announced new rules for local officials, offered compensation to relatives of earthquake victims, and set up a new agency for migrant workers. At the same time demonstrators continue to face arrest and beatings by the police.

Since 1992 millions of farmers have been pushed off their farms to work in factories, mines, and construction in eastern and southern China. There are now 150 million migrant workers—denied health-care, social security, and other benefits that “permanent” city residents receive—who find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain even a temporary work permit.

More than 1 million of the 3.7 million natives of Bazhong, Sichuan now work in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Many migrant workers are from Sichuan province.

Hundreds of migrant workers attacked a police station in China’s eastern Zhejiang province July 10, according to the online version of the pro-Beijing China Daily. Three days of protest took place after Zhang Zhongfu, 34, a migrant worker from Sichuan province in the southwest, was attacked by police when he went to a government office to register for a temporary residence card.

“The government employees told me that I could not be registered without my identification card. I quarreled with them and they hit me on the head,” Zhang said. He returned to the office the next day. When cops came to arrest him, residents surrounded them. Three police were injured and 23 migrant workers arrested during the melee.

Hundreds returned the next two days to protest in front of the police station in Kanmen, demanding the release of those arrested.

In mid-July the Chinese government announced the formation of the Department of Migrant Workers’ Affairs to “achieve social harmony” and arrange for “large-scale flow of laborers.”  
Earthquake protests
Parents and relatives of children killed during the May 12 earthquake continue to press the government to admit the deaths were caused by shoddy school construction. Riot police dispersed a crowd of hundreds July 15 in Mianzhu in Sichuan province. Eight schools in Mianzhu collapsed during the quake. In some towns, local officials offered $8,800 to parents who agreed to keep quiet in the future.

More than a hundred people battled police in south China’s Guangdong province July 17 after a motorcycle driver died from injuries cops say were sustained in a traffic accident, but relatives say were the result of a beating by security guards.  
Rubber farmers demonstrate
On July 15,500 people stopped police from arresting several people involved in a dispute between rubber farmers and the management at a rubber plant in Menglian county, Yunnan province, which borders Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Two farmers were killed when cops fired on the demonstration.

There are 334,000 acres of rubber trees in Yunnan, producing about 43 percent of China’s natural rubber. China is now the top tire maker and exporter in the world. Puer City official Ji Youngjin told a press conference the dispute arose over distribution of profits, access to forested land, and ownership of the plantation. Rubber prices have almost tripled over the last decade to about $2,800 per ton.

Local government officials accepted half of the eight demands raised by the farmers, including agreeing to adjust profit distribution.

In Central Hubei province, a woman protesting forced evacuations to make way for the Three Gorges Dam, which sits astride the Yangtze River, was dragged from the rising water by police in late July while protesting. The project has displaced 1.4 million people so far as the level of the water in the reservoir rises. The government admits that 320,000 of those displaced live in “abject poverty.”

The Communist Party of China (CPC) issued two new rules July 24 because of “the top leadership’s growing concern over social unrest,” reports China Daily. The rules say local government and CPC officials can be removed from their posts or expelled from the party for “poor handling of public grievances” or “heavy-handed tactics.”  
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