Days of protests in an east China town over a tax dispute appeared to have subsided yesterday and media reported that officials had suspended tax collection that sent hundreds of rural migrants into the streets.
Yesterday morning, traffic in Zhili, a factory town in Zhejiang Province, flowed smoothly and damaged cars and debris had been cleared. The streets appeared calm, although riot police patrolled the town and guided people away from the central square.
Protests in China have become relatively common over corruption, pollution, wages and illegal land grabs that local officials attempt to justify in the name of development.
However, the Chinese Communist Party is sensitive to any threat to its hold on power following the unrest that has swept the Arab world and ahead of a leadership transition next year, when Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) is expected to step down as party head.
In recent months, protesting workers in southern China have highlighted the government’s long-held fears about the challenge of absorbing tides of rural migrants.
The unrest in Zhili erupted on Wednesday when a children’s clothing store owner from rural Anhui Province refused to make tax payments to local officials and then mustered other shopkeepers to rally in support and attack the officials, state media reported.
That dispute spilled onto the streets and drew more than a thousand people over two days of periodic protests.
Some demonstrators hurled rocks, smashed traffic lights, billboards and overturned cars, local media reported, prompting public security to deploy armed police.
On Thursday night, more than 1,000 demonstrators, many workers from neighboring Anhui, crowded the town center, shouting: “People of Anhui, unite!” Protesters complained about mistreatment of people from Anhui, a poorer region that sends out millions of migrant workers to richer parts of the country.
“Currently, the Zhili township government has already suspended tax collection on clothing assembly workers and dismissed tax officials connected to the incident,” the Qianjiang Evening News, a Zhejiang newspaper, reported online yesterday.
During the protests, one public security officer and three city management personnel sustained light injuries, the report said, adding that five criminal suspects had been arrested and 23 detained.