Taxi drivers strike in central China

Thousands of taxi drivers took to the streets in the city of Chongqing earlier this week for improved conditions.

Submitted by Alex... on November 6, 2008

The strike, which began on Monday, saw 9,000 of Chongqing's taxis taken out of service as drivers protested over conditions; including high fees charged by their companies, unfair competition from unlicensed cabs, and a shortage of fuel.

A number of drivers were arrested, and more than 100 vehicles were wrecked, including three police cars. Many of the destroyed vehicles were taxis belonging to drivers who had not joined the strike. Most of the striking drivers are believed to have returned to work on Wednesday after the government agreed to reduce fees to drivers by up to 70 yuan.

In an extremely rare occurrence, drivers' representatives were met by Bo Xilai, a member of the ruling Communist Party's Politburo and also the party chief of Chongqing. The meeting indicates the level to which the Chinese state is concerned by the prospect of increasing civil disturbances.

Earlier this year thousands of residents in the city of Weng'an, Guizhou province, attacked police and government buildings over corruption and official abuses. According to official figures, tens of thousands of disturbances and protests take place annually, and these are expected to increase as the economic situation in China continues to deteriorate.

In an article published over the weekend, the Minister of Public Security warned that police must take steps to avoid inflaming disturbances, and acknowledged a growing number of "mass incidents" in recent months. The minister wrote, in the party journal Seeking Truth, that, "In handling mass incidents, we must be clear that the chief tasks of the public security authorities are to maintain order on the scene, ease conflicts, avoid excessive steps and prevent the situation getting out of control."

At a conservative estimate, at least 2.7 million Chinese workers are set to lose their jobs as a result of the economic crisis. Some 9,000 factories in the southern industrial cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan, and Shenzhen alone are expected to close before January.