Truckers protest again over costs in China

 Published: 4/21/2011 9:20:04 PM GMT
AP Original Cached

SHANGHAI – Truckers protested for a third day Friday in China's busiest port city to complain about rising fees and fuel prices they say are eating away at their profits, a sign of the simmering discontent over surging inflation.

Several hundred truck drivers gathered on a road by a cargo handling center in Baoshan district in Shanghai's northeastern outskirts, said Yan Maoguo, a trucking company owner whose office is nearby.

Police blocked off the intersection but there was no violence, he said.

Yan said his company suspended operations even though his staff are not involved because he heard that some protesting drivers have been trying to smash vehicles belonging to other drivers picking up shipments during the protest.

The protest comes as China's communist leaders try to defuse mounting public frustration over inflation that spiked to a 32-month high of 5.4 percent in March, driven by an 11.7 percent jump in food costs. Inflation is politically dangerous for the ruling party because it erodes economic gains that help to support the communists' grip on power.

Chinese leaders have said that taming prices is a priority this year. Cities have raised minimum wages by 10 to 20 percent, but that has failed to keep pace with climbing living costs in many areas.

The latest protest comes a day after about 40 truckers gathered at the cargo-handling center, watched over by 10 van loads of police. The main gate of the cargo-handling facility was sealed with yellow police tape.

On Wednesday, truckers blockaded a dock in Pudong district in eastern Shanghai, according to a logistics company employee, while in Baoshan the same day a trucking company owner said eight or nine truckers were arrested when they tried to overturn a traffic patrol car.

Authorities reacted quickly to the Shanghai truckers' protest, deploying police and removing accounts of the unrest from Chinese websites.

The drivers are angry that warehouse operators introduced a new charge of 50 yuan ($8) in October for trucks that pick up more than one container, said driver Zhao Feng. He said they also are angry over new fuel surcharges.

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