Four people were arrested in Guizhou yesterday for their role in a riot on Monday when nearly 300 people surrounded a police station and damaged nine police vehicles.
A sociologist said the riot, triggered by a migrant worker's refusal to pay a five-yuan fee for his temporary-residence permit, illustrated a degree of hostility against law enforcement officers that was rooted in government abuses of power and the mainland's worsening income disparity.
The riot began at around 9pm on Monday when 43-year-old Guo Chungui, who had arrived in Guiyang that day, was asked by security staff hired by a local police station to apply for a temporary-residence permit.
Mr Guo, from Bijie, nearly six hours' drive from Guiyang, reportedly refused to pay for the permit. Lei Xuyu, who was delivering bottled water to a residential complex near the scene, said Mr Guo was left with a bleeding forehead after the confrontation and he believed the migrant worker had been beaten by the officers.
But Zhang Bin, a reporter from the Guizhou Metropolis Daily, quoted Mr Guo as saying yesterday that he had hurt himself by stumbling while drunk.
'He said he had told police that he was drunk and was unhappy that he was asked to pay for a temporary residence permit on his first day in town. So he lied that he was beaten by the officers,' he said.
The confrontation attracted a large crowd from the district, which Zhang said had a large migrant population. They overturned and smashed two police cars with bricks and beat a police officer, injuring his head and right hand.
On Tuesday 300 people, including migrant workers and local residents, gathered at the police station and clashed with police. About 10 anti-riot police were deployed to disperse the crowd, he said.
A member of the local police station said it was 'inconvenient' to comment. Zhang said more than 10 people had been detained, with most released after investigation. He said four people, including Mr Guo, had been arrested.
A temporary-residence permit allows migrant workers to stay in a city for a specified time. Many cities have abolished the permit after a graphic designer in Guangzhou, Sun Zhigang , was beaten to death indetention after failing to provide such a permit in 2003.
Sociologist Hu Xingdou , from the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the participation of a large number of spectators, including local residents, showed that there was a level of general hostility towards law enforcement officers.
'The public tends to side with the disadvantaged because they think they have been denied their right to lead a proper life as a result of government abuses and mishaps,' Professor Hu said. 'The public supports them even if the disadvantaged person has done something wrong and the enforcers are doing their job.'