May Day protestors rally across Asia

JAKARTA — Tens of thousands of protestors rallied across Asia Saturday in May Day rallies calling for higher wages and better working conditions.

Most of the protests passed off without incident but in the Chinese territory of Macau riot police used water cannon and pepper spray in clashes with protestors who fought back with stones and bottles.

Hundreds of people were involved in the clashes, which erupted after protestors tried to force their way through police barricades to march along a main road where the gambling hub’s major tourist attractions are located, radio and television reports said.

Eight people were injured in the scuffles, including protestors and police, Hong Kong’s ATV television said.

Television pictures showed protestors hurling metal barricades, rocks and water bottles at rows of police with riot shields.

Police then used water cannon and pepper spray to disperse the protestors.

Hong Kong’s RTHK radio reported that nearly 1,000 people turned out for the May Day march to demand job protection and tough action against illegal workers.

They also demanded action against corruption and financial assistance to help offset inflation.

In neighbouring Hong Kong several thousand workers marched peacefully through the streets to demand a minimum wage of 33 dollars (4.20 US) per hour and better job protection.

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions secretary general Lee Cheuk-yan said 33 dollars an hour was the least workers could accept, as it gave a wage little more than a couple would receive on social security assistance.

“So you can think it is only barely enough to feed two members of a family,” he told RTHK.

Meanwhile, thousands of people took to the streets of the Indonesian capital Jakarta under a heavy police presence to demand better social security for workers.

“The social security system in Indonesia is still weak,” Indonesian Workers Association head Saepul Tavip told AFP.

“The system here only covers about 25 percent of the workers. The social security has to cover all workers and even small people,” he said.

Protestors in front of the State Palace sang the national anthem and some marched while carrying a banner that read “Realise social justice for all Indonesians”.

Police used water cannon when scuffles broke out with demonstrators near the palace.

“Some of them threw water bottles to our water cannon vehicle. So we had to shoot them with water to stop their action. But now it’s largely peaceful,” Jakarta police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said.

In the South Korean capital Seoul, about 20,000 unionists from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) rallied near the National Assembly to demand better working conditions and denounce redundancies.

Other regional offices of the militant KCTU held similar rallies in other cities across the country to highlight their demands.

In the Philippines, about 500 labour union members marched on the streets of Manila but, with elections looming, they paraded posters endorsing candidates for the May 10 polls.

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