Ten thousand angry migrant workers surrounded a government building in Huzhou, Zhejiang, on Oct. 26 after one of their own was beaten by city tax collectors and seriously injured. During the two day-long confrontation with police, at least seven were either killed or injured.
The issue is a steep 100 percent rise in the tax on sewing machines, on which many workers rely for their livelihood. The tax was instituted without any consultation, residents said, and no receipts are issued. Many think it resembles a shakedown.
Zhili Township, Zhejiang, 80 miles west of Shanghai, is China’s largest production base for children’s clothing, and nearly all households there are involved in the industry. Migrant workers from Anhui make a living by sewing clothing in their rented places.
The local government taxes these migrants’ sewing machines, while locals are granted tax exemptions.
On the afternoon of Oct. 26, a lady clothing store owner from Anhui, unhappy with the tax exemptions for locals, refused to make payments. She was then beaten while another five store owners were arrested.
“Jasmine Revolution Net” reported that several thousand workers from a clothing factory went to the city government and demanded an explanation for the beating but were met by riot police who tried to forcefully disperse the crowd.
At 8 pm that night, during the standoff, an Audi vehicle drove into the crowd and hit a dozen people, killing three and injuring eight. The crowd, enraged, blocked the intersection and then started smashing and turning over any car in sight. Several hundred vehicles are believed to have been damaged.
The crowd continued to increase; bloggers estimated that at least ten thousand had gathered by the afternoon.
People writing online who identified themselves as witnesses said they saw 1,000 riot police, and expressed support for the migrant workers.
Police sealed off the downtown area and arrested protesters, while stores were closed.
Internet searches for “Zhili” returned zero results.