09/19/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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More clashes between migrant workers and police in Guangdong

Police checking residence permits turns into a riot. Workers set fire to police motorcycles. Dissatisfaction grows in Beijing where a group of people protests in front of the US Embassy.

Foshan (AsiaNews/SCMP) – A dispute between migrants and security inspectors checking residence permits escalated into a riot with at least 10 migrants attacking police booths and setting fire to official vehicles. The incident occurred last Friday night in Foshan, Guangdong, the heartland and engine of China's fast growing economy. Local authorities said nobody was injured in the riot but one man had been arrested.

A local paper reported that the migrants attacked and pushed over at least eight police booths and set fire to eight motorcycles belonging to security inspectors, a police car and a fire engine. Authorities later sent riot police to restore order.

The newspaper said the dispute began at 7 pm on Zhongyi Road when security inspectors checked the residence documents of a man and woman.

Migrants must obtain temporary residence permits when moving to another part of the country.

The situation turned into a brawl as migrants involved in the dispute called on other groups for support who attacked the police. The article did not say where the migrants came from or whether they knew each other before the riot.

The Foshan Daily reported that police called the riot "an incident led by some individual lawbreakers inciting disorder by the masses who do not know the facts".

"Some individuals with ulterior motives attacked the police vehicles and beat the officials," the article quoted police as saying. "The police will try to arrest those responsible as soon as possible."

The riot broke out just a day after Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang wrapped up a tour of Hunan province in which he warned of rising social unrest from discontented farmers, workers and the unemployed, despite the country's stellar economic growth. "Our country's economic and social development is in a period of rare and important strategic opportunities, but also of striking internal conflicts among the people, high crime rates and complex struggles against foes," he said.

This looming danger found further confirmation in the actions of a small group of petitioners who yesterday gathered outside the information section of the US embassy in Beijing to draw foreign attention to their grievances against the central government.

Only about eight protesters took part shouting "We want rights!" and "We want to survive!" because of the harsh punishment the government meets out to protesters who try to involve international organisations.

One witness said the protest was prompted when an elderly petitioner from Heilongjiang was beaten to death by thugs in Beijing. The man, who called himself a "person with sympathy for the petitioners", added that the "petitioners wanted to send a signal to the international community . . . of China's corrupt legal system".

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