02/16/2009, 00.00
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Traffic accident sparks urban guerrilla fighting between police and migrants

A man, possibly an auxiliary police officer, struck a migrant and tried to flee the scene. Other migrants came and started beating him. The police sent more than 100 armed officers, who clashed with hundreds of migrants. Dozens of people were injured and arrested, and at least 6 police vehicles were destroyed.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Guerrilla fighting between more than 100 police officers and hundreds of migrant workers in Tongxiang (Zhejiang) for the entire afternoon of April 14. Six police vehicles were destroyed, 100 demonstrators wounded, and another 20 arrested.

The group Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy says that the clashes arose from an ordinary traffic accident. At about 5:30 in the afternoon, a motorcycle driver, said to be an auxiliary police officer, struck a migrant worker from Henan at an intersection. According to eyewitnesses, the man stopped the driver from leaving the scene, saying that he wanted to be compensated for his injuries, and the driver struck him and tried to get away. He was stopped and beaten by other migrant workers walking through the city after work.

More than 100 armed police officers arrived, many in riot gear. But hundreds of migrants gathered on the spot. The police used force to disperse the workers, but they fought back at close quarters, throwing bricks and stones. Surrounded, the police began attacking the crowd, sparking violent clashes.

Now, on their website, the police are promising a reward for those who provide information about the "attackers."

The migrants are the most vulnerable segment of the population: for years, they have been forced to work at low wages and with few rights, and now they are the hardest hit by the global economic crisis. According to official figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, about 20 million of the 130 million migrants have already lost their jobs.

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