June 27, 2012 / 5:26 AM / 7 years ago

Migrant workers clash with police in south China

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hundreds of Chinese migrant workers rioted and clashed with police this week in a fresh outbreak of social unrest in the economic powerhouse of Guangdong.

The southern province of Guangdong, one of China’s major coastal manufacturing zones, is home to a large population of migrant factory workers drawn from across China.

But in recent years, perceived discrimination and abuse by authorities have triggered strikes, clashes and riots.

The latest clashes took place in Shaxi township near the city of Zhongshan and involving about 300 migrants who hurled rocks after a fight between a 15-year-old migrant and a student, said a government spokeswoman from Shaxi.

Security personnel intervened and beat the young migrant, infuriating a group of relatives and others migrants who rioted, the Global Times newspaper reported.

About 30 people were injured and the rioters - mostly from Sichuan province in the southwest - smashed and overturned at least two public security vehicles, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

“Right now, there are a few migrants around but mostly as spectators,” the Shaxi spokeswoman told Reuters. “The protest has essentially been dispersed. There are a few police vehicles left, and some spectators are still around observing.”

Last June, thousands of migrant workers, also largely from Sichuan, rioted and clashed with police in the Guangdong city of Zengcheng, torching cars and ransacking government buildings, over the rough treatment of a pregnant street hawker.

Guangdong’s ambitious party secretary Wang Yang, who will likely be elevated to China’s elite politburo standing committee in a leadership transition this year, has acknowledged a need to mitigate simmering social unrest by stressing a more equitable and balanced “Happy Guangdong” mode of development.

The number of “mass incidents”, as such outbreaks of unrest are known, recorded by the government grew from 8,700 in 1993 to about 90,000 in 2010, according to several government-backed studies. Some estimates are higher.

The government has not released official data on such incidents in recent years.

Reporting By Sisi Tang; Editing by James Pomfret and Robert Birsel

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