Thursday, November 27, 2008

(Jan. 16 riot at Maersk factory near Dongguan)

Dongguan, China — Laid-off migrant workers demanding unpaid wages at a southern Chinese toy factory quickly tapped into a network of friends and unemployed laborers who battled security guards, flipped over a police car, smashed police motorcycles, stormed into the plant and rampaged through offices, destroying at least 10 office computers Tuesday.

This part of southern China, called the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province, is one of the country's biggest manufacturing bases, and most of the residents are migrant workers who work long hours in factories and live in crowded dormitory rooms. News of protests or mistreatment quickly spreads via mobile phone text messages. Crowds can quickly swell; workers from the same provinces often band together and support each other.

As the global economic crisis deepens, China has been seeing far more and much bigger protests in recent times. Similar eruptions of proletarian fury have been occurring with increasing frequency in southeastern China's industrial zones, most recently on Nov. 17 in Wudu and Nov. 7 in Shenzhen.