02/08/2010, 00.00
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Beijing orders local governments to prevent migrant protests over pay

The State Council orders local authorities to resolve disputes before the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on February 14. The government fears mass protests. In China's booming economy, the situation of migrants deteriorates: killed by the employer over a few Yuan.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The State Council on its website has ordered local governments to resolve wage disputes that relate to migrant workers before the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on February 14. In the notice, which is dated February 5, the order is given to pay all outstanding wages of immigrants who work for public and even private building projects, if necessary.

For the Chinese New Year tens of millions of migrants return home, often their only vacation. 210 million passengers are expected to flock the railways over the next 40 days. Everyone is calling on employers to pay wages in arrears, so they can bring the money home, and heated disputes are arising. The website notice recalls that "recently in some areas there have been mass incidents in relation to the wages of migrant workers, especially in the construction industry”. special security measures to prevent protests are requested and the punishment of "responsible" officials announced.

China fears mass protests, which can develop into actual riots: according to official figures in 2008 there were over 87 thousand protests for economic reasons. On other occasions the government has intervened to settle unpaid wages and prevent protests. On February 3 in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan, an employer stabbed to death by two workers who were protesting against the reduction of their monthly wage of 100 Yuan (about 9 euros). In January, another worker, in Hebei, was also stabbed and lost a kidney because he had protested to get his pay of 70 yuan.

Experts say the Chinese economic boom is largely based on the exploitation of poorly paid migrant workers, without health care or pensions or other fundamental rights. Even so, many immigrants now talk of seeking a new job close to home and of not returning to the prosperous coastal cities, where they have to struggle even to get their wage.

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