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Security tight in riot-torn south China city
Riot police pour into Xintang, a day after attempting to quell violence over alleged abuse of street vendor.
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2011 08:35
China's ruling Communist party has long worried about the challenge of absorbing tides of rural migrants [Reuters]

Security forces are continuing to patrol the streets and man roadblocks in Xintang, a southern Chinese city where rioting factory workers attacked police stations and torched vehicles over the weekend.

Xintang residents contacted by phone on Tuesday said the security forces were a constant presence on city streets and shops and restaurants had been ordered to close early.

No major incidents have been reported since Sunday in the city, which is in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong province.

The violence in Xintang broke out on Friday evening after a pregnant woman was allegedly pushed to the ground in a sweep against street vendors, most of whom are migrants from the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Such disputes are common and bystanders often side with the vendors and accuse police of heavy-handed tactics.

Fears of unrest

Residents of Xintang said they had been told not to go out at night or transmit photos of the unrest online.

That demand reflects authorities' fears of unrest spreading via the internet amid scattered calls for migrants to converge on Xintang for a new round of protests to demand the release of 25 people reportedly arrested over the violence.

"Nobody wants to come out. They fear running into danger," said a worker at the Xintang Ruilong clothing factory, located near the scene of Sunday's rioting, outside the local government headquarters.

The man would only give his surname, Wang, for fear of reprisals.

Along with the security crackdown, authorities have sought to pressure businesses to prevent their workers joining any protests.

Managers from 1,200 businesses in the area were called to a meeting on Monday and ordered to "pay good attention to your people and keep a close eye on your front gate".

"Get your own houses in order and act on your own to maintain social stability," managers were told, according to an account posted on the Xintang government's website.

Staff answering calls to local police and government offices said they were not permitted to comment further and refused to give their names.

Frequest protests

While violent protests in China have become more frequent over the past decade, recent weeks have seemed particularly turbulent.

Last month, the vast region of Inner Mongolia saw its biggest street demonstrations in two decades.

And thousands of protesters attacked government offices in the central city of Lichuan last week following the alleged beating death of a local city council member while in police custody.

Though the triggers for the events are different, most are driven by common resentments over social inequality, abuse of power and suppression of legitimate grievances.

In recent months, hundreds of government critics have been questioned, arrested or simply disappeared.

China's Communist Party leadership has reacted nervously to the turmoil.

'Threat to stability'

A report published by a top state think-tank has warned that China's millions of rural workers will become a serious threat to stability unless they are better treated in their new urban homes.

The report from the State Council Development Research Centre, published on Tuesday, found that while the overwhelming majority of migrant workers and business owners from villages see their future in cities and towns, they are often treated as unwelcome "interlopers" and have few rights.

The huge shift from the countryside to cities will continue for decades, and unless the migrants have better welfare, housing and legal status in towns and cities, their discontent could turn into a serious threat to stability, the study, published in Reform magazine, said.

China's ruling Communist Party has long worried about the challenge of absorbing tides of rural migrants.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have said their priority is improving the lives of 750 million rural residents, including 153 million migrants.

In February, Hu singled out migrant workers as one of the threats to the stability that the Communist Party prizes as a key to one-party control and economic growth.

The new study found that migrants have made gains, but it also illustrates the magnitude of the government's task.

Migrant workers have won higher wages and better treatment, the survey of 6,232 migrant workers found.

The report did not spell out exactly when the survey was conducted, but results refer to conditions in 2010.

It also showed that the percentage of migrant workers who said their wages were in arrears fell to 4.3 per cent, a fall of 16 percentage points on the results of a 2006 survey.

Source:
Agencies
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