08/01/2007, 00.00
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Heavy hand against those who protest for wages or drinking water

In Guangxi the CP daily newspaper accuses guides of defrauding tourists. The guides protest before the council and are arrested, the paper prints an apology to quieten protests. Urban warfare in Sichuan as thousands denounce a factory for polluting drinking water.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The heavy hand of the police is being used against anyone who protests for wages or drinking water. A Guilin (Guangxi) the police arrests 600 tour guides protesting for better working conditions.  In Sichuan thousands demonstrate against a factory which pollutes drinking water: the police provoke violent clashes.

In Guilin over a thousand tour guides held days of peaceful protests following the July 26th publication of an article in the Communist Party Guilin Daily, accused them of defrauding tourists by brining them to shops or tourist sites where they are paid commissions.  The guides complained that the article “didn’t address our difficulties” and asked they be given at least the minimum wage, on the night of July 29th, after hours of protest before local government offices, the police dispersed them, brutally beating many, according to eye witness accounts.  Over 600 guides were arrested.

In the country tourist guides are often accused of cheating visitors and earning too much in commission from the attractions and shops they took their groups to. Guilin’s guide do not deny the accusations, but observe that this only happens in tours offered at below cost rates, which means that their only payment are the commissions they receive from the shops or parks.  This is why they are demanding a minimum guaranteed wage.

On July 29th the Guilin Daily  “apologized” and the newspaper followed up yesterday with more than 10 articles praising the contributions of travel agencies and guides to the city's booming tourism industry. But the apology prompted speculation yesterday in many mainland media outlets who say CP officials forced the paper to print the apology to calm protests.  They maintain that it would be better to discuss the illegal activities in the tourist industry instead of hiding them.  People’s Daily asks “why didn't the Guilin Daily tell readers the details of the `improper places' in the [original] report?”

July 27 also saw a huge protest in Shiyuan (Sichuan). Over 500 police in riot gear clashed with thousands of protesters accusing China Resources Brewery of polluting water supplies. Protesters claim that the factory had paid the government "compensation" for polluting local water sources.  The factory is also accused of having fired many locals for no reason and of failing to make social insurance payments. There were at least 7 arrests and 20 wounded.


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