Protesters cite violence by guards in clash with police at Ikea store

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 December, 2009, 12:00am

Police in Shanghai clashed with dozens of protesters outside the city's Ikea superstore yesterday in an incident apparently linked to security guard violence and unlicensed taxis.

Six police officers scuffled with the crowd of around 40 youths outside the furniture store for at least 30 minutes in the afternoon.

'Police brutality. Police are hitting people,' the crowd chanted on the forecourt.

No arrests were made, but one protester fled the scene, claiming police had stomped on his ribs while he lay on the ground.

Witnesses said the event started after Ikea security guards refused entry to some people and forcibly removed them from the shop.

Others said the confrontation was linked to an incident last month in which a customer had to be treated in hospital after being attacked by security guards.

'The police have refused to investigate,' another protester alleged. 'We think they are in cahoots with the security guards. They even get fed in their staff canteen.' A South China Morning Post reporter later witnessed one of the police officers involved in the incident relaxing in the Ikea back office. He did not appear to be conducting official business but also did not appear to be receiving improper gratuities.

'We are only responsible for maintaining the peace outside the store,' one officer said.

'We are not permitted to comment on the situation.'

More than a dozen security guards were stationed at the main entrance to the store - considerably more than on previous visits - and there also appeared to be heightened security around the checkouts. A spokeswoman for Ikea said the company was still investigating the incident but suspected it could be linked to a crackdown on unlicensed taxis, which began last month.

'As with all large shopping centres in the city, we have been asked to put together an action plan in the run-up to the World Expo next year,' she said. 'This includes clamping down on the activities of 'black cars'. We have had a lot of complaints about this from customers recently.

'Anyone who has been spotted repeatedly approaching customers inside the store but not making purchases of their own will be denied entry. We are simply trying to create a safer and more harmonious environment for both our customers and our staff.'

She confirmed that there had been a fight between a security guard and a customer last month.

'It was an incident between one individual security guard and a member of the public,' she said. 'Ikea called the police at the time, and we believe they are currently carrying out their investigations.'