Chinese migrant workers in Guangdong Province have said that police and paramilitary forces have been ordered to use deadly force to quell riots and demonstrations in Zhongshan city over the past several days, according to Hong Kong newspapers Ming Pao and Apple Daily.
In the past several days, local residents, migrant workers primarily from Sichuan Province, and police have clashed with one another in Zhongshan, particularly in Shaxi town, which is located across the Pearl River from Hong Kong. It is one of China’s main garment-producing areas and employs thousands in that industry.
Migrants who work at factories in the southeastern province have long complained of being mistreated and being given poor wages compared to locals. The riot started on June 25 after the son of a migrant worker was beaten by local security forces when the son got into a scuffle with local boys.
Following the incident, thousands of migrant workers from Guangzhou, Foshan and Jiangmen (other cities in Guangdong Province) have “flocked to Shaxi” and even surrounded some of the town’s government buildings, said Ming Pao. Workers threw bricks and other objects at police officers, who in turn attacked the workers and local residents.
There are as many as 10,000 armed police and riot officers who have been deployed to deal with the riots, according to Ming Pao, which reported on rumors that were circulated. Other rumors have been spread among residents and netizens, saying that police have been ordered to use deadly force. Some Chinese netizens said there were 3,000 police in Shaxi.
High-ranking officials in the Chinese Communist Party handed down an order for riot and armed police to “shoot at any time” when the situation gets out of hand, reported the Apple Daily.
The dissident Molihua website reported on Wednesday that in previous days several people had died in the clashes and more than 100 were injured, most of whom were migrant workers.
However, according to Voice of America, as many as 30 people may have been killed in the violence.
A Chinese Internet user on the website QQ, who identified himself as “Wind,” said that two days ago while he was driving in Zhongshan, riot police severely beat anyone they could see. “The wounded collapsed on the ground, with broken windows and car pieces scattered on the road. Lots of people were beaten to death and were lying on the side of the road,” the netizen said.
The QQ blogger said “all hospitals” were flooded people who were injured in the clashes and said, “The death toll is rising.” He added that his father was one of the victims of the police brutality and was in critical condition when admitted to the hospital
But despite the graveness of the incident, he said local Chinese Communist Party officials told hospitals to force out wounded migrant workers in “attempt to shy away from responsibility.”
A reporter with The Epoch Times called the Shaxi police station on Wednesday, asking a spokesperson about the riots. An employee, who refused to give her name, said to call the “local propaganda department to get an answer; we are not responsible for answering these questions.”
When the reporter called the Zhongshan municipal government office, an employee said that “absolutely no one” was injured or beaten during the riots, and added that the reporter should contact the propaganda department. When The Epoch Times attempted to call the propaganda department, there was no answer.
In recent days, locals in the area were told by both police and protesters to stay in their homes. One local resident said that if they speak Mandarin, they will be attacked by police, but if they speak Cantonese—the local language—the migrant workers who are from Mandarin-speaking areas of China will attack them, according to Ming Pao.
A BBC reporter, John Sudworth, who was in Shaxi on Thursday, said that he saw hundreds of marching riot police moving in formation in the streets.
“The police just started beating people without reason, any migrant on the street they just beat him,” a woman told the BBC.
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