Officials eye training to handle mass incidents

Updated: 2012-06-28 08:15

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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After two clashes broke out in Guangdong province this week, local officials are being encouraged to undergo special training to better prepare them to deal with mass incidents.

On Monday, more than 300 migrant workers from Chongqing attended a meeting of the Longshan village committee in Shaxi township of Zhongshan in search of answers after a 15-year-old boy from Chongqing had been tied up and injured by local villagers at about 10:30 pm the same day.

According to reports, the boy had been in a fight earlier in the day with a local resident, a 13-year-old student.

Angered by the attack on the boy, migrant workers threw stones at the village committee building and vandalized police cars.

Xue Xiaofeng, Party chief of Zhongshan, and Mayor Chen Maohui called for the case to be dealt with in an open, just and fair manner.

Also on Monday, officials of Foshan's Zuotan village were interrupted in a meeting by a group of villagers who abducted them and put them in a minibus. The kidnappers allowed no one to send food and water to the officials, who included the head of the village and his deputy.

The two officials were held in the minibus for more than nine hours and were rescued by police officers the next morning.

The incident resulted in the injury of two villagers and damage to a police car. The police said they are not certain why the two officials were kidnapped.

Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said he isn't surprised that mass incidents have broken out between permanent residents and migrant workers in the prosperous province that borders Hong Kong and Macao.

"But local officials should really undergo special training to prepare them to properly deal with these incidents," Zhu said.

He said the mass incidents were likely a result of Guangdong's rapid economic growth and the fact that migrants are not always treated the same as permanent residents.

"Many migrant workers actually cannot enjoy the same social welfare benefits that other residents get," Zhu said.

According to official statistics, Guangdong, one of the country's economic powerhouses, is now a temporary home to more than 31 million registered migrant workers.

Such workers sometimes do not receive the same employment, education, social security and medical welfare benefits as permanent residents, Zhu said.

He urged local governments to give migrant workers more social benefits and to treat them the same as others.

"When mass incidents take place, government departments should try to explain the laws and regulations to migrant workers and make their operations transparent to avoid escalating conflicts between permanent residents and migrant workers," Zhu said.

Zheng Fenming, director of Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences' institute of modernization strategy, said he sees no reason to regard such incidents as great scourges.

Guangdong province has a diverse culture and is a temporary home to more migrant workers than any other comparable part of China, he said.

"Such mass incidents have also been reported in many developed countries and regions in recent years," he said.

"These incidents can actually be settled peacefully when the authorities deal with them according to laws and regulations and in an open, just and fair manner."

(China Daily 06/28/2012 page4)