In early June police abuse against a poor street vendor sparked a popular uprising…Sound familiar? The scenario is oddly reminiscent of that of the story of Mohammed Bouazizi, the young man whose death kick-started the Tunisian revolution. Only this time, the revolts took place in Southern China.
Riots broke out on June 10 in Xintang, a town in the industry-rich Guangdong province. Street vendors there, often poor migrant workers who set up illegal stands, play cat and mouse with the local chengguan, a sort of municipal security force that assists police. On June 10, during a brutal chengguan crackdown on a group of vendors, tensions reached a breaking point.
The security guards descended on a group of illegal market stands and began beating the vendors with batons to disperse them. In the course of this operation, a young, pregnant, female vendor was reportedly assaulted.
Shortly afterwards, several hundred migrant workers began blocking the traffic in the streets of the town in sign of protest. According to the national news agency Xinhua, the crowd attacked several official buildings with bricks and glass bottles. Twenty-five people were arrested
during the first night of protests, but the riots continued for several days. In the evening of Sunday June 12, several thousand protesters burned dozens of vehicles and clashed with law enforcement agents at a busy highway intersection.
Photos posted here.
Earlier this month, another violent incident pitted workers against police forces in Xintang. The crowd was protesting in defence of a migrant worker who suffered a knife attack
because he dared demand two months of unpaid salary from his boss.