Hundreds of angry truck drivers blockaded a port in Shanghai amid an ongoing strike against rising port fees and fuel prices, clashing with riot police sent in to disperse them, truckers and agents said.
About 2,000 truck drivers clashed with riot police near Shanghai's biggest port, Waigaoqiao, on Thursday, the second day of angry protests over rising costs in China's logistics industry, Reuters reported.
"We were initially discussing things pretty peacefully, but then the riot police came charging in," said one striking driver surnamed Zhou who attended Wednesday's protest. "We had parked eight containers at the main gate [of the port]."
"They went to [protest in the business district of] Pudong in the afternoon, and things got very heated, with some people smashing vehicles."
"That was when all the riot police arrived. They arrested nine people," Zhou said.
Anger over fees
A spokesman for the truckers' association surnamed Feng said the protest—which is expected to last for three days—had begun with a blockade of Shanghai's Baoshan port on Wednesday.
"The riot police went there and they were dispersed," Feng said. "They detained a lot of people."
"It got pretty riotous down there. Anyone the police couldn't move on, they detained."
Feng said several hundred truckers took part, and more than 100 police were sent to disperse them.
"They are saying that they shouldn't have to pay the fees and they don't want to pay them," said one truck driver identified as Xiao Zhang, who went to the scene of the protest on Wednesday.
Feng said resentment had been brewing among the drivers for some time.
"This strike was going to happen sooner or later," he said. "The rising fuel prices have added fuel to the fire."
According to the regional truckers' information website, jikache.com, there are 150,000 trucks serving the ports of southeast China, and 200,000 truckers.
Many of those detained were taken to the Yanghang district police station.
"We are currently investigating the situation," said an officer who answered the phone at the police station on Wednesday. But he declined to comment further.
An employee surnamed Wang who answered the phone at the local logistics agency said the strike was taking place all around the Shanghai region.
"Basically they are on strike throughout the whole city," Wang said.
"They were smashing vehicles over in Wai'er district," she said, in an apparent reference to the reported smashing of trucks belonging to non-strikers. "Things got pretty serious today."
"There is the issue of fees at the ports, and then fuel prices have risen two or three times," she said.
"But the revenue from haulage hasn't gone up, so basically, they can't make a profit and they are driving the trucks for nothing."
Driven by desperation
A representative for the striking truckers surnamed Hu said the protests were driven by desperation.
"Things have got very hard for us now," she said. "Some of us can't even afford to eat."
"We have each spent several hundred thousand to buy our trucks, and now fuel prices have gone up too much, as well as all the fees in the ports."
"We just want to be able to make some profit ... We didn't want to make trouble ... We only did this to get the government's attention and to get them to help us in our difficulties," Hu said.
Calls to the information office at the Shanghai municipal government went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.
Reported by Ding Xiao for RFA's Mandarin service and by Wen Yuqing and Bi Zimo for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.