Sun, Nov 28, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Chinese students trash dining hall in meals protest

BELLIGERENT YOUTHS:A local newspaper said 1,000 students from one of China’s poorest provinces were protesting an average rise of US$0.07 for dishes


Generations of children could sympathize with the impulse to riot over school lunches. However, the Chinese teenagers who rampaged through their cafeteria this week were protesting at the rocketing prices of meals rather than the quality of the food.

While British students earlier this week took to the streets to demonstrate against rising tuition fees, those at a school in Guizhou trashed the dinner hall after learning that the cost of dishes had gone up by an average of 0.5 yuan (US$0.07).

The southwestern province is one of the poorest in China, with more than 5.5 million people living in poverty, according to Xinhua news agency.

The incident underscores the government’s concern that rising food prices could lead to instability. Last week Beijing announced it would sell commodities from its reserves and ordered local officials to take measures including clamping down on speculation, increasing vegetable planting and offering subsidies to low-income households.

Students at the high school in Liupanshui overturned and broke tables and smashed windows on Monday, education officials said. Others reportedly stole instant noodles and soft drinks.

“This is the second price hike at the cafeteria. Students were discontented and agreed to smash it,” a pupil named Chen told the Guizhou Metropolis Daily.

A local newspaper said 1,000 students rioted, but headteacher Fan Guoqing said that “only 10 to 20 students took part while many others cheered them on.”

The incident ended when police arrived.

“The prices have returned to their original levels. The operations of both the cafeteria and the school have returned to normal,” a local official told the Global Times. “Those students are mostly from poor families and they will be not be held legally responsible.”

One Internet user, who claimed to be a third-year pupil at the school, said repeated complaints had been ignored.

According to the China-SMACK Web site, which translated his post, he wrote: “With the prices going up again and again, it has thoroughly enraged us! And that’s why this happened. Or did we all have nothing better to do than simultaneously be several thousand bad youths one day? ... However, after this incident, the school has indeed made big changes!”

Consumer price inflation rose by an annual 4.4 percent last month, the highest in two years, and well above the government’s 3 percent target, in large part because of more expensive food.

The Beijing News reported that colleges and universities in the capital had been barred from increasing prices, while education authorities in Shanxi province asked schools to provide meals costing just 1 yuan to pupils from poorer families.

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