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China truckers strike for third day in Shanghai

22 april 2011, 11:47
0
Photo courtesy of indiatalkies.com
Photo courtesy of indiatalkies.com
Photo courtesy of automobile.com
Photo courtesy of automobile.com
Truck drivers picketed at Shanghai port facilities over rising fuel costs for a third day on Friday, with witnesses reporting police had moved in to try to disperse them, AFP reports.

The strikes by hundreds of drivers at several shipping sites in Shanghai, China's largest port and the world's busiest container port, underline official concerns over the potential for spiralling inflation to spark public unrest.

Police have been dispatched to several port sites in the city since Wednesday, when drivers gathered to call for higher freight rates to offset hikes in diesel prices.

Protesters assembled again around the China International Marine Containers (CIMC) terminal in Shanghai's northern Baoshan district on Friday morning, a participant told AFP by phone.

"It's chaotic here now. Policemen are coming with police cars ... they tried to disperse the people," the man said on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately clear whether the strike was affecting cargo traffic, although some North American logistics companies warned of possible delays earlier this week.

Shanghai port authorities and the city's government have not responded to AFP requests for comment.

The state-controlled Chinese-language media has refused to report on the demonstrations, apparently fearing they could spread to other sectors.

But the English-language Global Times -- published for foreign readers -- reported on the strike Friday, quoting Shanghai police denying claims on the Internet that three drivers had been beaten to death by police in the unrest.

Shanghai media said Friday that car-use fees paid by taxi drivers to their employers would be reduced starting May 1, in an apparent bid to keep the protests from spreading.

Cabbies will pay their companies 8,200 yuan ($1,262) each month, down from 8,500 yuan, the Shanghai Daily reported.

Inflation has a history of sparking unrest in China and the government is on edge over spiralling prices, particularly after inflation became a factor in the popular uprisings that have rocked the Arab world.

The consumer price index rose 5.4 percent year-on-year in March -- the fastest pace since July 2008 and well above the government's 2011 target of four percent.

The truck drivers, mostly private operators, said their incomes had been squeezed by four increases in the government-set price of diesel since October, the Century Weekly magazine said in a report on its website that was quickly removed.

In addition to increased fuel costs, drivers were protesting over what they said were unreasonably high handling fees charged by the port, according to a notice issued by ROE Logistics Inc., a Montreal-based customs broker and freight forwarder.

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