Migrant workers erupted in public protest when Chinese authorities allegedly mistreated a pregnant worker. Protestors overturned police cars, smashed windows and set fires near the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou on Monday. The demonstration began late Friday evening when city officials attempted to forcibly move migrant workers selling produce in front of a Zengcheng supermarket.
Some sources have likened the violence to protests in Tibet or Xinjiang. Unlike the demonstrators in those regions, however, the Guangzhou protesters are migrant workers, a population living as second-class citizens in cities along China’s east coast. Chinese officials responded to days of rioting by censoring footage. According to Mayor Ye Niuping, “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.” Niuping said groups were handling the situation by speaking with migrant workers at dormitories and factories.
Studies by scholars in China point to a different set of circumstances, however.
A sociologist at Tsinghua University in Beijing reported that China experienced 180,000 “mass incidents” in 2010, double the number of occurrences in 2006. Last week, migrants from Sichuan demonstrated in Chaozhou, about 210 miles east of Guangzhou, after a worker was attacked by a supervisor at his ceramics factory after demanding two months of back wages. In Lichuan, Hubei province, riots have erupted over the controversial death of an anti-corruption activist. This weekend, a bomb exploded near a government building in Tianjin. The third government-directed attack in less than a month, the demonstration may have been related to the May 26 triple bombing committed after Chinese authorities seized civilian land.