Taxi strike in Chongqing, authorities opt for talks rather than force
Almost 9,000 cabbies go on strike against high fees, fuel shortages and too many fines. The authorities give in on some issues and half of all strikers go back to work. Public Security minister warns police against using violence against protesters.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About 4,000 cabbies out of 9,000 went back to work in Chongqing but others are still on strike after they stopped working on Sunday, blocking transport in the city. The Public Security Ministry urged local authorities to engage strikers in talks rather than use force to settle the labour dispute.

The city of Chongqing partly gave in to the strikers’ demands, pledging to review the fee (440 yuan) drivers must pay to their management companies each day. They also agreed to increase the supply of compressed natural gas used by most taxis (which now have to line up for up to three hours at stations and fill up several times a day) and crack down on unlicensed taxis.

But these measures do not meet all demands. Strikers have in fact complained about shortages in compressed natural gas and high fines of up to 500 yuan for traffic violations like failure to clean passenger seats.

The anger boiled over on 27 October when municipal authorities introduced a series of traffic regulations designed to improve the city's image (Chongqing proper is home to about five million people, but the larger municipality has 32 million people). Any drivers caught violating them face stiff penalties, sometimes five/six times a day.

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu urged police to avoid missteps or the use of violence against public demonstrations.

“In handling mass incidents, we must be clear that the chief tasks of the public-security authorities are to maintain order on the scene, ease conflicts, avoid excessive steps and prevent the situation from getting out of control” and avoid causing “death,” he wrote in a state-owned paper,

China does not publish data on domestic unrest, but incidents run in the thousands each year and are often dealt with by police repression and the excessive use of force, which in turn can lead to running battles in cities.

“Absolutely avoid incidents of bloodshed, injury and death,” Meng told police, adding that “economic crimes” are often among the main causes of public protests.

Perhaps this is why Chongqing authorities have opted for dialogue. Still on the first day of the strike acts of violence were aimed at on cabbies who refused to join in (pictured). And police too acted. The net result was that over a hundreds vehicles were damaged, including some police cars.