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China fires officials, charges 11 over Guangdong riot-media

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 7 Jul 2011 14:44 GMT
Author: Reuters
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BEIJING, July 7 (Reuters) - China has fired two government officials and charged 11 people with various crimes after a riot in a town in the export-dependent southern province of Guangdong province last month, state media said on Thursday.

The riot, which had flared over three days, was set off after security guards abused a pregnant migrant street hawker, but was also a show of public anger over mounting social pressures, including corruption and rising living costs.

It was one of the worst outbreaks of civil unrest in booming Guangdong province in years.

The official Xinhua news agency said that officials -- including the town chief and the head of the Communist Party in Xintang, where the riot occurred and a major denim and garments hub -- had been fired.

A security guard, who was "engaged" in the unrest and had been involved in a dispute with a pregnant migrant worker, was detained for 10 days and had been fired as well, it added.

Xinhua provided no names or details of the 11 who were charged, except to say they were charged with "obstructing official affairs, causing disturbances and intentionally damaging property".

The pregnant migrant worker whose manhandling by security guards had set off the riot has become a symbol of bubbling migrant resentment.

Xinhua said the security guard who was fired had been involved in a dispute with a pregnant migrant worker and her husband after telling the couple to move their stall from the front of a supermarket. It provided no details.

Though the unrest did not spread, it still hit a raw nerve with the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party, which worries about any challenge to its authority.

Xinhua quoted Su Zhijia, a senior Party official in Guangdong's capital Guangzhou, as saying that public services for migrant workers "needed to improve to avoid future unrest".

The riot saw rampaging mobs smash and burn government offices, pelt police with stones and bottles and overturn scores of vehicles. The clash was quelled after riot police poured into the town.

In China, where hundreds of millions of migrant workers are expected to relocate to cities in coming decades, social tensions arising from the mass migration are especially sensitive.

Though China's 150 million or so rural migrant workers have gained better wages and treatment in recent years, the gap between them and established urban residents remains wide, fuelling anger about discrimination and ill-treatment.

Other clashes have erupted in southern China in recent weeks, including in Chaozhou, where hundreds of migrant workers demanding payment of their wages at a ceramics factory attacked government buildings and set vehicles ablaze. (Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Sugita Katyal)

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