12/03/2008, 00.00
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Streets blocked in Shaoguan, in protest over firings: workers rehired

Workers held public protests because the company did not want to renew their contract: after the protest, it agreed to rehire them. In the China of the economic crisis, Beijing says that talks should be held with protesters, instead of resolving everything through the police.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Streets blocked in Shaoguan (Guangdong) on December 1, by public protests held by about 500 employees of the state-run Shaoguan Smelter, against their firing.

267 contracts run out at the end of December, and the company had said that it would not renew them because of the financial crisis. Under the eyes of dozens of police, the workers blocked the streets for hours (in the photo), until the executives promised to negotiate with labor representatives. At night, they promised to renew the contract. According to the media, in Guangdong alone there are 2.7 million jobs at risk, but the real number could be much higher because many migrants are hired "under the table."

The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported the clashes that took place on November 21 in Taian (Shandong) between the police and about a thousand soldiers furloughed at the beginning of the year, and still unemployed. The former soldiers went to city hall, but the government did not meet with them, and called in about 500 armed police officers. After hours of waiting, some of the former soldiers tried to enter by force. Violent conflicts followed, with at least 10 injured. A few days later, about 200 former soldiers were arrested.

Meanwhile, the largest strike by taxi drivers in China for decades has partly resumed in Guangzhou, where about 70% of the 17,821 taxis stopped on December 1 in protest against high taxes and the lack of action against illegal taxis. Zhu Xiaodan, secretary of the communist party in the city, has asked officials to consider their complaints. This guideline, which is completely obvious to Western democracies, is significant in China, where protests are often resolved through police action. Now Beijing is afraid that the economic crisis will unleash social protest, and is urging officials at all levels to "dialogue" with those who protest, to seek a solution. After a few concessions, many of the taxi drivers returned to work.

Song Jiancong, a taxi driver in Guangzhou for more than 7 years, tells the South China Morning Post what many people may think about the communist authorities: "The only thing they care about is money, and we suspect that there is corruption among officials."

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