A Tax Riot Strikes Zhili, Chinia

In Zhili, near Huzhou, a long-time center of China’s textile industry, workers responded last week to the local government’s doubling of the tax on migrant workers’ sewing machines by rioting. Here’s a summary I’ve been able to piece together from the fragmentary reports on-line:

The workers said that the tax had been instituted in an arbitrary way, and that the tax collectors didn’t give receipts for the paid tax — making it appear more like a shakedown than the average tax. In addition, non-migrant workers qualify for tax exemptions.

The riots broke out after Cheng Yanzhe, a children’s clothing manufacturer, asked the tax collectors for credentials and a receipt, and was beaten by them in response. Her husband was then arrested when he lodged a protest. Hundreds or thousands of workers rallied to demand an explanation. During the rally, a vehicle drove into the crowd, killing three people and injuring several others. The enraged ralliers then rioted, burning and otherwise destroying many vehicles. At least five people have been imprisoned. (All these numbers are disputed. Official media puts the number of protesters at 600, the number of smashed-up cars at thirty. Other observers put the number of protesters in the thousands, and the number of cars at “at least 100… including 10 police cars, and one armoured police car.”)

China’s internet censors have been busy blocking messages concerning the riots. Google Translated articles in the approved Chinese media have sentences like “This reporter learned from the Huzhou Municipal Party Committee Propaganda Department now the incident has been overblown, disturbed people have been arrested.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the town government has rescinded the controversial tax and suspended one tax collector.