Chinese taxi drivers drink pesticide and lie in the street to protest government contracts

The group had travelled from the northern Chinese city of Suifenhe near the border with Russia

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The Independent Online

More than 30 taxi drivers lay down in Beijing’s busy Wangfujing shopping district surrounded by half-empty bottles of pesticide over the weekend to protest the Chinese government’s restrictive rules on leasing of taxis.

The group had travelled from the northern Chinese city of Suifenhe near the border with Russia to stage the protest. The Beijing police removed them and took them to hospital.

“They came to Beijing to express their demands on contract and vehicle renewal,” the brief statement posted on the official social media account of the Beijing Public Security Bureau said.

The statement referred to them as individual taxi drivers, according to reports. This means they work for government authorities rather than taxi companies.

Taxi protests are frequent in China because of leasing laws which force drivers to pay a sizable deposit and monthly fees for the use of the vehicle.

According to the China Labor Bulletin, cab companies are free to arbitrarily raise the monthly fee, while the driver has to cover the cost of fuel, maintenance and repairs. In major cities the fee can be around 10,000 yuan a month, which forces drivers into 12 hour days and seven day weeks just to make enough money to survive.

If there is a slowdown in a local economy, such at the border where a slowdown in neighbouring countries’ economies is taking its toll, drivers can take home less than local factory workers.

Unlicensed cabs are often the source of taxi driver protests, because with such low margins, the drivers resent any competition for their income. 

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