You are here

Truck drivers’ strike turns violent in China

SHANGHAI: A two-day strike over rising fuel prices turned violent yesterday, as thousands of truck drivers clashed with police, truckers said, in the latest example of simmering discontent over inflation.

About 2,000 truck drivers battled with baton-wielding police at an intersection near Waigaoqiao port, Shanghai’s biggest, said two drivers who attended the protest.

The drivers, who blocked roads with their vehicles, had stopped work on Wednesday, demanding that the government do something about rising fuel costs, workers said.

“I want the government to stand up to solve our problems because we cannot take this any more. We are unable to bear the cost of operating now,” said a 33-year-old driver surnamed Chen, a native of central Henan province who has been driving for eight years.

The strike took place against a backdrop of rising consumer prices and fuel price increases. China’s inflation rate hit a 32-month high of 5.4 per cent last month, prompting officials to renew vows to use all available means to contain price rises.

However, China said early this month that it would increase retail petrol and diesel prices by 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent to record highs, citing rising global crude oil prices.

Police arrested at least six people and beat up some protesters with batons, said Mr Chen and another driver, a 35-year-old also surnamed Chen.

Both drivers, who work for a small transport company, showed photographs of police carrying a man with a bloodied head, with his wife and daughter at his side.

Truck drivers also staged strikes in other Shanghai ports, including Baoshan and Yangshan, the drivers said.

The strikes and protests, if they continue, could become a worry for the government.

The younger Chen said his disposable income had fallen to 4,000 yuan (S$760) a month, from 6,000 to 7,000 yuan a month last year.

The other Chen said he was still on strike, together with what he estimated were thousands of others.

At a carpark three blocks away from the protest site, about 30 riot policemen arrested two truck drivers and dispersed a crowd of 50 to 70.

Earlier, other truck drivers had driven past, shouting to their fellow drivers to “join the strike, stop driving”.

ROE Logistics, a Montreal-based customs broker and freight forwarder, issued a statement on Wednesday about a strike at a Shanghai port, saying it could result in delays.

While China’s state media remains silent on the protest, one overseas Chinese media outlet claimed that similar demonstrations by truck drivers had erupted in nearby Ningbo and northern Tianjin cities.

Drivers were also protesting against what they said were unreasonably high handling fees charged by the port. Previously, there was no charge for truckers to pick up extra shipments, said truck driver Zhao Feng, but now they are charged an additional 50 yuan.

A book published on Wednesday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a major Chinese think-tank, warned that the full-year consumer price index – a measure of inflation – will probably exceed the government’s target of 4 per cent this year if no effective measure is taken to tame rising prices.