Factory workers launch riot against garment tax

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am


Hundreds of indignant owners of small factories and their workers have rioted in Huzhou, Zhejiang, since Wednesday afternoon, smashing public facilities and overturning and setting fire to vehicles, in a protest against a rise in local taxes.

Xinhua reported yesterday that several police officers and city management officers had been injured when more than 100 protesters went to the Zhili township government office on Wednesday, hurling stones at buildings and smashing street lamps and signs, after a scuffle between a factory owner and local tax collectors.

Authorities had detained 28 people, including five for alleged criminal offences.

Xinhua said the violence escalated when a large number of protesters blocked a major highway on Wednesday and a vehicle knocked down 10 protesters while trying to leave.

The crowd left the township government offices at around 11.30pm on Wednesday, but they gathered again in the early hours of yesterday, smashing the windows of more than 30 vehicles parked on the roadside and damaging rubbish bins and other public facilities.

Xinhua and Huzhou's official news portal said the rioting had calmed down by noon yesterday, but local residents and online postings insisted it was continuing.

Residents and internet users said the number of protesters was larger than Xinhua reported, with thousands taking part. It remained unclear how many ordinary people and protesters had been injured or if anyone was killed in the rioting.

Hundreds of police in full riot gear were sent in to crack down on the riot yesterday. Huzhou police chief Jin Bozhong rushed to the scene.

The incident was the latest of several mass uprisings to shake mainland communities in recent months. In September, hundreds of residents blocked a road and laid siege to a police station in Wukan village, Guangdong, to protest the alleged sale of a collectively owned pig farm.

In Huzhou, some internet users posted photographs said to have been taken at the scene and wrote on their Weibo microblogs that hundreds of vehicles, including dozens belonging to the local police, had been overturned by angry rioters.

Blogger Kang Shaojian said anger had been simmering among factory owners from Anhui province and their workers after a tax on each sewing machine in some garment factories was doubled from 300 yuan (HK$365) to 600 yuan.

Known as the 'hometown of Chinese children's wear', Zhili is the site of thousands of garment manufacturers and wholesalers, many also from Anhui. Notices on local government websites said taxes were levied based on the number of sewing machines and workers at each factory.

Kang said people took to the streets on Wednesday afternoon after tax collectors beat factory owners who refused to pay.

Said a children's garment wholesaler who identified herself as Xiao Mei: 'Some say the tax officers imposed a double tax on the garment makers from Anhui, but refused to give receipts.'