China tackles urban unrest: Zengcheng and Mongolia

Updated On: Jun 16, 2011

Chinese security forces have restored order in the southern town of Zengcheng, after days of rioting by migrant workers.

Separately, China has pledged to boost development in Inner Mongolia, following last month's unrest among ethnic Mongols in the northern region.

Official statistics show that anti-government protests have been on the rise in China over the past five years, but the simultaneous unrest in several Chinese cities over the last three weeks is unusual. The disturbances come amidst a government crackdown on online calls for a Middle East-style uprising in China.

The timing of these incidents is troubling for China's government. Chinese leaders are trying to project an image of stability in the lead-up to the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party next month. They are also expecting a once-a-decade leadership change next year.

Analysis: China Stamps Out Southern Unrest [Wall Street Journal, 15 June 2011]

Earlier this week, Chinese security forces moved into the southern town of Zengcheng, restoring order after days of rioting by migrant workers.

The deployment of thousands of riot police armed with tear gas and shotguns appears to have brought calm to the area. But a top Chinese government think-tank has warned that unrest could flare again if leaders fail to address migrants' concerns.

About half the residents of Zengcheng are migrants from rural parts of China. But according to the report from China's State Council Development Research Center, rural migrants are often treated as unwelcome interlopers by city dwellers. They are treated as cheap labour and discriminated against.

Zengcheng is a key clothing manufacturing centre on the outskirts of Guangzhou, in the southern province of Guangdong. The province accounts for about one third of China's exports.

While the streets are now quiet, residents say an atmosphere of tension remains in the city.

Tempers flared when a street hawker was reportedly killed by police. His pregnant wife was also said to have been assaulted. But the man involved in the incident later appeared at a government press conference, saying he and his wife were well.

Authorities have also promised to investigate other allegations leading to the riots.

Report and Analysis: Residents describe 'scary' China riots [AFP, 15 June 2011]

Yesterday, the State Council, China's cabinet, announced new plans to address the concerns of residents in Inner Mongolia, part of China's northern regions. They promised to improve standards of living and to protect the local environment.

This is the latest in a series of statements by China's government acknowledging the grievances of local communities, in this case the ethnic Mongols.

Authorities have already pledged an overhaul of coal mining practices in the region, stopping harassment of local residents and violations of safety rules.

Last month, an ethnic Mongol herder was killed by a coal truck. He had been protesting pollution caused by the mining industry. The incident triggered riots across Inner Mongolia, the largest demonstrations in 20 years. The Han Chinese truck driver was later sentenced to death, while his co-driver received life in prison.

Report: China vows help for Inner Mongolia after unrest [AFP, 15 June 2011]

Coal mining is a major industry in the region. But ethnic Mongols are frustrated with the influx of Han Chinese miners, which has displaced herders, destroyed grazing lands and killed livestock.

According to Chinese state statistics, there are 1.5 million people living under the poverty line in Inner Mongolia. Desertification has affected over half of the land in the region, with some 804,000 hectares of grassland lost each year.

At the cabinet meeting, led by Premier Wen Jiabao, Chinese leaders pledged to raise incomes in Inner Mongolia to the national average by 2020, as well as better access to clean water and electricity by 2013. Leaders also promised better policies on industrial development, taxation, financing and investment.

Report: China to issue key policies to boost development of Inner Mongolia [Xinhua, 15 June 2011]

Since February, China has been pursuing new approaches to what they call "social management". Local authorities are under now pressure to find new ways to prevent or contain unrest.

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