China Migrant Unrest Exposes Generation Faultline

Reuters revisits the city of Zengcheng, Guangdong, the scene of riots last month after a skirmish between a pregnant street vendor and a police officer. They find a generational shift among migrant workers, many of whom are young and not willing to tolerate mistreatment by authorities and bosses:

Interviews with dozens of migrants in Dadun and other nearby factory neighborhoods revealed raw resentment of harassment and shakedowns from public security teams and local security guards.

Such treatment has gone on for years, they say, even as their material conditions have improved, especially in the past two years as a tightening labor market lifted wages.

But like a ripple of strikes across Guangdong last year, the Dadun riot revealed a younger new generation of migrants still impatient with their lot in cities that can treat them as burdens or threats, not the residents they want to become.

“The police treat you differently if you’re a migrant,” said Fang Wuping, a migrant worker in Dongguan, the vast manufacturing zone next to Zengcheng.

“I can understand why they have to keep an eye out here” he added, describing a recent bout of detention by wary police.

“But when you’re singled out as a criminal like that, you get angry and think, ‘What gives you the right?'”

June 28, 2011 10:11 PM
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