Chinese court jails six for role in Guangdong riot

BEIJING (Reuters) – A court in southern China has jailed six people for their part in a riot in southern province Guangdong last month, state media said on Tuesday.

Sentences ranged from nine months to three and a half years.

The riot, which flared over three days, started after security guards abused a pregnant migrant street hawker, but was also a show of public anger over mounting social pressures, including corruption and rising living costs.

It was one of the worst outbreaks of civil unrest in booming export hub Guangdong in years.

The court in Zengcheng, the factory town where the riot took place, handed down the jail terms on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said. Charges included destroying vehicles and attacking police officers.

Li Zhonghuang was given the longest sentence, three and a half years, after he “led a group who threw stones and set vehicles on fire,” the report cited a court statement as saying.

Another defendant, Zhao Jiufu, got a two-year term.

“Zhao threw stones at police who were attempting to maintain order during the unrest. When a police officer tried to grab him, Zhao bit him on the stomach,” Xinhua said.

“The defendants all confessed their crimes and pleaded guilty during the trial,” it added.

Xinhua said last week that the government had fired two officials and charged 11 people with various crimes after the riot.

Though the unrest did not spread, it hit a raw nerve with the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party, which worries about any challenge to its authority.

The riot saw rampaging mobs smash and burn government offices, pelt police with stones and bottles, and overturn scores of vehicles. It was quelled after riot police poured into the town.

In China, where hundreds of millions of migrant workers are expected to relocate to cities in coming decades, social tensions arising from the mass migration are especially sensitive.

Though China’s 150 million or so rural migrant workers have gained better wages and treatment in recent years, the gap between them and established urban residents remains wide, fuelling anger about discrimination and ill-treatment.

Other clashes have erupted in southern China in recent weeks, including in Chaozhou, where hundreds of migrant workers demanding payment of their wages at a ceramics factory attacked government buildings and set vehicles ablaze.

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