* More taxis seen on streets in central Hangzhou
* Protest led mostly by migrant workers
* Highlights growing unrest among the growing workforce
(Adds more comments from drivers, researcher)
By Melanie Lee
HANGZHOU, China, Aug 3 A strike by Chinese cab
drivers in the eastern tourist city of Hangzhou stretched into a
third day on Wednesday, highlighting frustration by migrant
workers nationwide struggling with high costs.
More than 100 drivers, mostly from heavily rural central
Henan province, as well as their families, gathered under a
bridge in the suburbs of the scenic city about 190 km (120
miles) southwest of Shanghai, demanding higher wages.
About 1,500 disgruntled taxi drivers started the strike at
rush hour on Monday morning, according to state media. Cabbies
said many thousands more have since joined, but more taxis were
seen on roads in the city centre, a popular tourist destination
with the famed West Lake, on Wednesday compared with the
previous day when they had all but deserted the area.
The strike in Hangzhou follows a series of similar protests
by taxi drivers in other cities across the nation, demanding
higher wages as well as unrest among young migrant workers who
make up a growing share of the country's workforce.
"They tell us, 'if you are so unhappy, why don't you go
back.' They don't treat us seriously because we are not from
here," said a Hangzhou driver, who appeared to be in his late
40's and who declined to give his name.
"I have been driving for a long time, and this is the first
time I have been on strike. But with fuel price rises, it is
getting too expensive," he said.
Taxi industry reform is seen as difficult because of lax
effort to help drivers and passengers by government agencies
that tend to work instead with business owners, said You Chenli,
a researcher at privately funded think thank Transition
Institute in Beijing.
The Transition Institute, in a recent study, said there have
been nearly 60 taxi strikes in Chinese cities in recent
"The government's regulatory agencies and the
companies form an interest coalition, and so there's reluctance
to harm the interests of the companies," said You, whose
institute has studied China's taxi industry and urged reforms.
The real key to a solution is breaking up the monopolistic
operation of the sector and allowing anyone to enter it on fair
Taxi drivers in Hangzhou say they make about 500 yuan a day
($77), but pay out nearly 80 percent of that in fuel and vehicle
China's consumer price index hit a three-year peak of 6.4
percent in June, with leaders in Beijing saying that fighting
inflation is their policy priority.
China's 150 million or so rural migrant workers have gained
better wages and treatment in recent years, but the gap between
them and established urban residents remains wide, fuelling
anger about discrimination and ill-treatment.
"Driving taxis is the only thing I know how to do. What is
there for me to do if I go back to Henan?" a 42-year-old driver
said in his tiny apartment where his wife and three children
have lived for the past four months. Their twice-a-day meals
consist of steamed buns and garlic paste prepared in the kitchen
which doubles as a bathroom.
Hangzhou city's transportation bureau has promised to raise
taxi fares by the end of October and offer a temporary fuel
subsidy of 1 yuan ($0.16) per trip, which many cab drivers say
is too little.
Other city governments in the face of strikes or labour
unrest have raised fares recently. Shanghai, the country's most
populous and expensive city, boosted fares by 2 yuan last month.
But local governments are also wary of upsetting consumers
by raising fares, according to You Chenliat, another researcher
at the Transition Institute.
"These days, the government is more afraid of offending
consumers, but in the end it is them who carry the costs," he
(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in Beijing, Writing by
Kazunori Takada; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)