THERE were more than 12,000 protests and petitions by disgruntled workers and farmers in the first 10 months of the year, according to an internal circular. Most of the incidents involved labourers and peasants who complained about unemployment, delayed payment of salaries, and falling standards of living, as well as wrong-doing and dereliction of duty by party and government officials. The latter included corruption cases and failure by authorities to adequately compensate urban and rural residents for land requisitioned for new developments. Protests took the form of demonstrations, sit-ins, petitions to government departments, and 'laying siege to party and government offices'. Relatively few student protests were recorded. The number of participants ranged from several people to more than 10,000. Tens of thousands of workers and miners in the northeast staged protests over the failures of state factories and mines to pay salaries. Most of the protests lasted no more than a few days, and none developed into a national crisis. But governments of different levels have been instructed to adopt a carrot-and-stick approach. In a large number of incidents, particularly those in the countryside, the para-military People's Armed Police were deployed to disperse protesters. Officials are also authorised to use emergency funding to pacify the disgruntled in various ways, including one-off payments of subsistence-level salaries. In public and private speeches, leaders including President Jiang Zemin have underscored the imperative of defusing threats to social stability. For the second day in a row, the media yesterday played up a visit by Mr Jiang to factories and mines in Shaanxi and Gansu. After talking to impoverished labourers and peasants, Mr Jiang ordered on the spot that they be given money and clothes. Beijing has also pledged to devote funds to building up a Western-style social security net.