Migrant Worker Disabled Over Pay

Riots erupt in a southern Chinese city after a worker is assaulted by his employer over salary arrears.

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Chinese migrant workers return from southern Guangdong province at a railway station in neighboring Guizhou province, January 8, 2009.

Thugs hired by a business owner severely injured a migrant worker demanding salary arrears in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, triggering mass riots, local residents said on Tuesday.

Twenty-year-old migrant worker Xiong Hanjiang from Sichuan province, who went to Guxiang township in Chaozhou city to seek late pay on June 1, had the tendons of his feet and hands severed, making him permanently disabled, according to the residents.

They claimed that the business owner’s family gave 3,000 yuan (U.S. $463) to the local government to “cover up" the heinous crime.

News of the incident angered migrant workers from Sichuan and Guangdong, triggering several days of angry protests—not only against the crime, but against inaction by officials.

On June 3, migrant workers from Sichuan gathered before the city hall of Chaozhou, demanding that perpetrators of the crime be brought to justice. But police instead beat up the protesters, wounding scores of them.

In the next two days, protesters flocked to the city government office building.

The protests culminated on Monday evening, when a large crowd gathered at city hall, blocking streets, smashing and burning cars, and clashing with police. About 30 cars were damaged, residents said.

Incident played down

A Guxiang township government officer denied the severity of the incident in an interview on Tuesday.

“There were no violent riots. That is a rumor on the Internet,” the man said.

“The dispute was caused by a labor argument, and the worker asking for late pay was harmed.”

“The police instantly sent the wounded man to the hospital. Later, the business owner surrendered himself to police and the knife-wielding criminal was captured, too,” the officer added.

When asked about online pictures of the disabled man, he said, “That is a cyber sensation. He is still hospitalized and received many stitches on his hand and foot, but it is not that serious.”

However, several local residents in the town verified the violent riots over the phone.

“The town is now in chaos, and all shops are closed,” said one man.

“The town has been in turmoil over the past several days. Anti-riot police and armed police are everywhere. The protesters are from Sichuan,” said another man.

“I don’t dare to go out these days. I saw the most horrible things in my whole life [on June 6] when a mob of about 10,000 people [began] smashing and burning cars,” said a woman.

Besides Sichuan and Guangdong, she said, migrant workers from Hunan province also joined the protests.

“Some local police officers were wounded,” she added.

Hospital mum

Contacted by telephone, a medical staff member at a local hospital declined to provide any details.

“Sorry, our hospital won’t allow us to say anything about the wounded man,” the woman said.

The local official newspaper Chaozhou Daily carried a dispatch on the incident, but did not mention the riots.

It said three suspects have been detained.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, many media outlets reported the riots with photos of burning vehicles.

Reported by Fang Yuan from Hong Kong for Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.


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