40 hurt as Macau labour rally turns ugly

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 May, 2010, 12:00am

At least 41 people were injured when protesters and riot police clashed yesterday in the most violent Macau rally since 2007.

Water cannon and pepper spray was used against workers who charged at a police cordon in a protest against illegal labour and runaway house prices.

Thirty-two police officers, four protesters, two journalists and three passers-by were injured in the clash. Portuguese photo journalist Carmo Correia suffered concussion and a broken cheekbone when hit by a water cannon and knocked over. A police officer and a protester also suffered concussion.

Security Police chief Lei Sio-peng said police showed restraint despite being pelted with rocks.

A total of 1,500 people took part in various protests yesterday, including about 800 people in the labour rally, police said. At midnight, dozens were still at the scene of the clashes where a police cordon remained in place.

'Workers' discontent is raging because illegal labourers are everywhere,' said Ng Sek-io, a leader of the rally. 'Imported labourers have taken away locals' jobs.'

Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, who was in Shanghai for the World Expo opening, expressed concern about the clash and offered condolences to the injured.

The clash happened when police blocked protesters who wanted to go from Demetrio Cinatti Avenue into an area that leads to the busy Almeida Ribeiro Avenue.

A police spokesman said the protesters had ignored warnings and repeatedly charged at the cordon, forcing officers to use water cannon and pepper spray. Some workers who carried national flags in the rally used the long flagpoles to attack police officers in the cordon.

Political commentator Professor Larry So Man-yum of the Macau Polytechnic Institute, said both the police and protesters were to blame.

He said the police had deliberately overreacted to the protesters' violence in a show of force. 'They wanted to show the central government that they were cracking down hard on troublemakers,' So said.

After reviewing the protesters' planned route, the Security Police on Monday published a modified route that it said the protesters must follow. Ng said there was not enough time for protesters to seek a Court of Final Appeal ruling on the route as an application must be submitted five working days before a rally. 'The police deliberately waited until Monday to inform us of the allowed route,' Ng said.

Previously, Ng sought the top court's ruling after the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau banned his group from using Triangle Garden as a starting point for the Labour Day rally. The court ruled on Monday that protesters had the right to use the venue.

On May 1, 2007, 6,000 protesters clashed with police in a rally that left dozens injured. An officer fired shots in the air and one of his bullets hit a motorcyclist 300 metres away.