Another worker riot has flared up in Eastern China, fed by anger and frustration against the government. The Monday event is providing further evidence of the tensions and frictions between lower-class migrants and their employers, which the former see as being protected by the authorities.
The beating and subsequent death of a young migrant worker in Rui'an, a town near the city of Wenzhou in Southern Zhejiang Province, sparked a large riot, which Chinese media says involved the family and townsmen of the deceased.
The incident is much smaller than the protests which took over the village of Wukan in Guangdong province late last year and those that overseas dissident groups claim were sparked off by redistricting in Chongqing in April 2012. Experts in China say that incidents of social unrest in have grown dramatically in past years, and numbered over 150,000 in 2010, higher than the government's own claims of between 80,000-90,000.
On May 12, a young worker named Yang Zhi, reported as aged 19 or 20 by Western and Chinese media respectively, was allegedly viciously beaten by his boss Xu Qiyin, aged 39, over a salary dispute. Chinese media say two days later, while police were still looking to arrest him, Xu turned himself into the authorities.
What appear to be bystanders look into the government compound. Photo: NetEase
On May 26, Yang died in hospital from his wounds, which included serious head injuries. On May 27 and 28 the family of the migrant worker was unable to reach consensus on compensation for his death, then being brokered by a local government office. On the morning of May 28, protesters gathered at the government office, asking for severe punishment for the murderer. They subsequently smashed and flipped over automobiles, defaced the government building, and armed themselves with rocks and bricks.
Western media claim that as many as 1,000 participated, but People's Daily in China, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, reported that only 200 rioters assaulted the grounds of government building, though there were an unspecified number of bystanders to the events.
Local riot police cordoning off an areas of the street near the government office. Photo: NetEase
Pictures uploaded onto a local internet forum reveal large crowds gathered near the government office, as well as riot police. People's Daily says that rioters and onlookers later dispersed after local authorities managed to assuage the rioters and convince them to disperse.
Reuters, quoting Xinhua, say that 300,000 yuan, or $47,300, was ordered in compensation to the dead man's family, though it is unclear whether that amount was offered before or after the rioting.