City at boiling point
Updated: 2011-08-11 07:46
London's riots did not break out accidentally.
In the wake of the riots, which have included looting, arson attacks, burglary and robbery, the chaos has spread to Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham. A 26-year-old man died after being shot on Monday night in London, the first death claimed by the riots.
The rioting is the worst in the United Kingdom since the 1980s. It began on Saturday when an initially peaceful protest against the fatal shooting by police of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in London's Tottenham neighborhood turned violent.
Around 16,000 police officers have now been deployed on London's streets, which it is hoped will put a stop to the violence. More than 600 people have reportedly been arrested around London since the start of the disruption.
The riots offer food for thought not just for the UK but also for other developed countries. They were the outburst and explosion of a society that has been suffering in silence and which had reached the tipping point.
Tottenham is home to many disadvantaged people. Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, which is double the national average.
Britain's economic woes and the axing of social benefits are an underlying cause of the riots. Young people's frustrations and a sense of unfairness, especially those without higher education, a job or money, finally turned into anger, and a single spark ignited the whole woodpile.
Frequent violent demonstrations in Europe indicate that developed countries are not immune from social unrest if people's concerns are not heeded. Besides bracing themselves for the consequences of their spluttering economies, industrial countries face new bottlenecks in promoting racial reconciliation, increasing employment and reducing the gap between the haves and have-nots.
The riots are a blow to Britain's economic policies and the belt-tightening measures Prime Minister David Cameron has introduced. Since the coalition government came to power just over a year ago, a slew of brutal government spending cuts and austerity measures have been imposed as a result of which the country has witnessed several strikes, trade union marches and student protests. This has pushed economically disadvantaged people to the brink. Those who are taking to the streets are people who have nothing to lose.
The riots have also exposed the failure by successive government to ensure social justice across all parts of society.
To contain any further troubles, the country will have to do more. In particular, every effort must be made to ensure the 2012 London Olympics are staged peacefully.
(China Daily 08/11/2011 page8)
Li Xing, China Daily's assistant editor-in-chief and veteran columnist, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on Aug 7 in Washington DC, US.
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