Shenzhen police have released surveillance images of 20 protesters in the hunt for suspects linked to violence during anti-Japan demonstrations on the mainland during the past two weeks.
The public is being urged to come forward with information about the suspects, with the promise of unspecified rewards. And police have also called on the protesters to turn themselves in or face more severe punishments if caught.
Hunts for suspects are also under way in other mainland cities, including Xian, Qingdao and Changsha, as mainland authorities move to contain the protests over instability concerns ahead of a key Communist Party congress in the next few weeks.
In Xian, Shaanxi province, police released two photos of a young man wearing a white T-shirt who was linked to the mobbing of a 51-year-old man in a Japanese-made car on September 15. The man suffered a severe head wound.
Violent protests targeting Japanese interests and related businesses have erupted in dozens of mainland cities since September 15 over the Diaoyu Islands dispute. Many Japanese stores and car dealerships were looted or set ablaze, while Japanese-made vehicles were also damaged and burned in the streets.
In Shenzhen, protests on September 16 along Shennan Boulevard, a major city thoroughfare, quickly escalated into violence targeting government compounds and vehicles, forcing police to deploy tear gas to disperse the crowd in front of the city's party committee offices.
Police in Guangdong have detained more than three dozen protesters in criminal investigations, including seven people in Shenzhen, The Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday.
The newspaper quoted "numerous police officers" as saying that many protesters harboured bitterness and were easily agitated. The Shenzhen arrests included migrant factory workers.
"Some joined the protest after they saw internet postings, but some simply joined a procession in the middle of the road when they saw others damaging vehicles of Japanese brands," the police were quoted as saying.
He Zhongzhou, general executive of the Blue Labourer Co-operation, a Shenzhen-based NGO specialising in work-study programmes for factory workers, said the implication of mostly migrant workers in the violent protests over the past week had highlighted an the underlying cause, particularly in Guangdong, which had a very large migrant workforce.
"The underlying issue here is not about whether migrant workers are more tempted to join the violence, but about the growing discontent among the grass-roots people - those with small salaries and little access to social welfare," he said.
"The protests over the Diaoyu Islands simply offer them a conduit to express that."
He said authorities needed to heed the grievances among the less-privileged masses.
He also believed their resorting to violence was a result of a general failure in the mainland's education system to cultivate a sense of civil obedience.