Tunisia police tear gas protesters in Sidi Bouzid
Tunisian police on Wednesday fired tear gas at protesters trying to storm their headquarters in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of the 2011 revolution, after the murder of a prominent opposition figure. Some 200 protesters attacked the police station and policemen fired tear gas in response, an AFP correspondent said. The army then intervened to calm the crowd in this marginalised town in central Tunisia that has suffered ongoing unrest since the mass uprising that ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Riot police sent against Greek striking seamen
Riot police were sent to Greece’s main harbour Piraeus early on Wednesday to end a strike by seamen that has disrupted ferry services to the country’s myriad islands for nearly a week. The police were sent to enforce an emergency government order that took effect at 0400 GMT to force the strikers back to work. Television footage showed a cordon of riot police deployed at the harbour to keep a strike support force away from ships taking on passengers and cargo.
The Panhellenic Seamen’s Union (PNO) is protesting against a labour reform that allows ferry owners to regulate the number of crew members depending on the distance of the voyage. The union also notes that its sector is suffering heavy unemployment while some 2,000 of its members have been unpaid by employers for six months. PNO had decided to extend the six-day mobilisation for another 48 hours before the government crackdown. “The government made every possible effort to satisfy the maritime workers’ demands,” Merchant Marine Minister Costis Moussouroulis told reporters on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, petty politics have left no room for dialogue,” Moussouroulis said. Greece’s largest private-sector union GSEE has called an Athens-wide strike on Wednesday in support of PNO, a move that will disrupt public transport in the capital. The seamen’s strike had cut off Greece’s islands from resupplying with goods and medicine. An island trade association on Tuesday pleaded with the seamen to end their mobilisation. “The islands have reached their limits,” the Cycladic chamber of commerce said in a statement, adding: “This undeclared war must end.” PNO claims that unemployment in the sector has hit more than 7,000 maritime workers, out of a total of 15,000 active workers.
Police disperse protesters over death of migrant worker Zhang Derong
Authorities in Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu, sent about 1,000 riot police to disperse a protest by a group of migrant workers and hundreds of supporters in Wenjiang district on Monday after Zhang Derong, a 20-year-old migrant worker involved in a back-pay dispute, was beaten to death allegedly by thugs hired by a local company. Wenjiang district police confirmed the man’s death on their microblog on Monday, saying it had followed a dispute between a construction company and a labour outsourcing firm. They did not elaborate on the labour outsourcing firm’s relationship to the developer, Tianlai Group. The police said yesterday that they had launched a criminal investigation into the case but declined to provide more details.
Delays in paying migrant workers, especially before the Lunar New Year holiday, have long been a cause of discontent on the mainland. Labour market analysts say rogue employers are a particularly serious problem on construction sites owing to lax supervision of building projects by authorities. Workers are often left to deal with many layers of employers who can blame others and shirk responsibility for payment. To make matters worse, few migrant workers on construction sites sign contracts and those who do hold little sway in enforcing their rights.
Zhang was beaten to death and two other migrant workers were injured when they were confronted by thugs at the Tianlai Plaza construction site at lunch time on Monday, local resident Zhang Yi said. Even though I said I suffered from hypertension, they still beat me up and swore at us until I lost consciousness and ended up in hospital He said he later saw 20 to 30 construction workers protesting in front of the construction site, with a long white banner bearing Zhang Derong’s name and a wreath to mourn his death.
He said some 500 supporters had gathered to show their solidarity with the workers by 7pm, when about 1,000 riot police were sent in to disperse them. He said that plain-clothes police also popped out of the crowd to help detain those who were slow to leave and he was taken to the Jinma Police Station along with seven other supporters and held late into the night. “Even though I said I suffered from hypertension, they still beat me up and swore at us until I lost consciousness and ended up in hospital,” Zhang Yi said.
He remains in hospital, being treated for a head injury. Police had also confiscated their mobile phones and cameras and had deleted photos of the protest before returning them, he said. In another dispute, more than 100 migrant workers knelt in the snow in front of a culture park construction site in Tangshan , Hebei , on Sunday to demand pay owed to them. The local labour authorities pledged to make sure they received half the amount owing.
Violent scuffles at Paphos building site
VIOLENCE erupted in Paphos yesterday when police confronted striking builders who tried to stop strikebreakers who were brought in to take over the work at a hotel construction site. Three people were arrested during the trouble on Posidonos Avenue, which began at around 9am when some 50 strikebreakers tried to enter the site, which was being guarded by construction workers on day nine of an islandwide strike. Police intervened in a bid to restore order, arresting two striking workers and a female union official in the process as both police and builders pushed and shoved each other.
Television footage showed one police officer shouting abuse at the striking builders as he moved to push them out of the way. Another officer used pepper spray against builders who were trying to prevent him from making an arrest, police said. A man was treated in hospital for breathing problems and was later released. The unions accused police of using excessive force. “The police tried to disperse strikers violently and with excessive zeal,” PEO representative Neophytos Assos said.
Assos also charged that police officers had provoked striking workers, telling them they did not know how to hold a strike properly. Giorgos Christodoulou, the district secretary of SEK, suggested that police could have told the employer not to go ahead with any work because of the large number of strikers outside. Because of this, there were scuffles and police used violence, Christodoulou said. Are we living in a dictatorship where people are not allowed to do anything?” he added. “Police wouldn’t even let us on the pavement.” Police said the striking workers had blocked the road for hours, disrupting traffic. Paphos police deputy director Nicos Sophocleous defended the force’s actions. “Police did their duty,” he said.
Police spokeswoman Lefki Solomontos echoed his comments on CyBC later in the day. “As the police, we have an obligation to enforce the law and maintain order,” she said, adding that though the right to strike was “completely respected” the police were obliged to intervene in this case and any other similar ones. Also commenting on the incident, head of the employers and industrialists’ federation (OEV), Michalis Pilikos said: “No one has the right to enforce the law of the jungle against anyone else. Just as someone has the right to strike, so does someone else have the right to work,” he said. The trouble came on the ninth day of the construction sector industrial action with no signs yesterday that the dispute would be resolved soon.
Builders have gone on strike over job losses and insecurity in the sector. Their unions have taken issue with the roughly 10,000 foreign EU workers in their sector, who were not part of collective agreements that guarantee better benefits for employees. They have threatened a general strike if employers did not show readiness to compromise. Labour Minister Sotiroulla Charalambous has been trying to bring the two sides closer but without any positive result so far. “The distance has grown and the conclusion is that the employers’ side is not trying to find bridges of communication but it is trying to exploit the economic situation to win everything,” said Yiannakis Ioannou, the head of SEK’s construction branch.
Ioannou said builders have already agreed to cuts of around 8.0 per cent but contractors also wanted to reduce provident fund contributions by 3.0 per cent, cut Christmas bonuses by 50 per cent, and take away one day from the Easter holidays. “The bridges of communication that some people are trying to build have found no response because contractors have run amok, they have shown their true colours,” Ioannou said. Charalambous has cancelled a trip abroad to continue efforts to break the deadlock, which is doing more damage to the island’s stalled economy. Builders receive some form of financial help from the unions’ strike funds.
President Demetris Christofias said he was saddened by the use of violence, which he condemned. “We do not accept such behaviour. I want to express my solidarity with the people who were beaten and suffered injuries and call on the chief of police to put an end to this behaviour,” Christofias said. AKEL also condemned the violence, criticizing the police for being quick to blame the striking workers without listening to their version of the events.
The incident was criticised by presidential candidate Nicos Anastasiades whose spokesman urged the government to seek an immediate end to the dispute. Labour minister Charalambous said last night she would continue her efforts to find a compromise between workers and employers despite criticism stemming from “petty politics and electoral interests”.
Yemeni Sets Himself on Fire before Cabinet amid Hunger Strike of Wounded
A young man set himself on fire in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Tuesday in protest against the slowness of the government in responding to the call of the injured revolutionaries who have been on sit-in and hunger strike in front of the council of ministers for more than a week.
Munif Al-Zubairy, 32 years old, poured petrol on his body and then set himself on fire in solidarity with the striking wounded revolutionaries. He suffered and was screaming “I want the Yemeni people to launch a new uprising”. His back and other parts of his body caught fire and were affected. Some of the protesters who joined the sit-in to support the wounded revolutionaries and passersby rushed to him and brought the fire under control. Al-Zubairy was taken to hospital for treatment.
He was not injured during the popular uprising which erupted in early 2011 and ousted the former president at the of the year. His act was in support of those injured and to send a message that their conditions have moved him. Tens of the wounded revolutionaries have been protesting and on a hunger strike for eight days before the Cabinet which has started to respond to their call. Prime Minister Muhammad Salim Basindwa pledged the government will help the revolutionaries who were wounded during the uprising without exceptions.
Mass hunger strike: 20,000 civilians in north Lanka
To highlight the grievances a mass hunger strike will be launched by more than 20,000 northern civilians who have no access to their lands, on February 15, Ceylon Today reported. The mass hunger strike is to be held from the Tellippalai Durga Devi temple premises calling for the withdrawal of Security Forces from lands owned by the civilians prior to the escalation of the war.
At the Valikamam North Town Council premises where civilians who still live in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the peninsula, a special meeting in this regard was held on Friday (1). With no access to their homes and agricultural lands they complained that their agricultural lands have been acquired and that their houses have been demolished by the Security Forces. They also said that they are presently facing the danger of losing their own properties to the Security Forces as their means of livelihood have been badly affected. A new fence, erected by the Security Forces through the Myliddy area in the early part of last year, has prevented the IDPs from going to their homes and lands. The houses that had been well constructed in the recent past, within the newly erected fence, have been bulldozed, sources said. The civilians who also had been affected, staged a similar protest at the same venue last year, but were dispersed by the Security Forces, they added.
Activists threaten to go on prison hunger strike
Muscat: Some jailed activists have threatened to go on hunger strike from February 9 in protest of a delay by the Supreme Court in acting on their request challenging the Muscat Appeal Court judgment that sentenced them to six months, according to their lawyer, Yaqoub Al Harthi. He told Gulf News he has received a message from the imprisoned activists saying poet Said Al Hashemi, activists Badar Al Jabri as well as Nasser Saleh Al Gilani were among some of the activists planning to go on hunger strike if their appeal in the Supreme Court was not submitted.
The three along with media person Basma Rajhi, lawyer Basma Al Kiyumi, Mahmoud Al Rawahi, Mukhtar Al Hinai, Abdullah Al Gilani, Khalid Al Nofli, Mohammad Al Sazawi and Mahmoud Al Jamoudi were sentenced to six months in jail and given a 600 Omani riyals (Dh5,725) fine for wrongful gathering in Muscat. At the time of the arrests they were protesting against the arrests of activists Esmail Al Muqabali, Habiba Al Hinai and Yaqoub Al Kharussi.
Farmers protest land grab south of Kunming
Hundreds of villagers just south of Kunming took to the streets this past weekend to protest what they are characterizing as unlawful land seizures. More than 700 residents of Guanji Village (广济村) marched along a highway carrying signs and shouting slogans in an effort to raise awareness of their situation, Radio Free Asia (requires proxy) is reporting. Farmers in the predominately Yao minority (瑶族) town, unhappy over proposed resettlement payments for their land, began petitioning the local government last year.
At issue are 667 hectares of farmland on which developers plan to build a resort inspired by the ancient Dian Kingdom. The local government has pledged to pay a total of 120,000 yuan in compensation for the land. Farmers working the property counter that the proposed payment is far too low. They claim vegetables grown on the disputed farmland generates roughly 30,000 yuan per mu (亩) annually.
Tensions have escalated recently as farmers assert they have been intimidated by construction crews. A man surnamed Li told Radio Free Asia that several villagers have been assaulted and said the resort construction company and local government are colluding to defraud people of their land. In response, residents of Guanji Village have begun to patrol their farms around the clock. Accordig to Li, The construction workers […] were hired by the government, and they were trying to get onto our land to take it over. We are watching over the land in shifts, several hundred of us. We have beaten back the construction workers.
But if they send even more people in, I think it will be hard to avoid bloodshed. Disputes over land slated for development are nothing new in and around Kunming. Hundreds of shopkeepers were dispersed with tear gas in 2009 when it was announced the old Luosiwan wholesale market would be demolished. One year later a massive development project around the northern tip of Dianchi Lake was scrapped due to local action over resident relocation schemes.
Residents protest ash from Batam power plant
Around 300 residents of Batam, Riau Islands, have rallied to shut down the Tanjung Kasam steam-powered electricity plant (PLTU) until state-owned electricity company PT PLN stops it from pouring ash onto their homes.
The residents of Telaga Punggur subdistrict in Nongsa have complained of respiratory and skin ailments due to ash from the plant since the Tanjung Kasam PLTU started operations at the end of 2012 The 2×55-megawatt (Mw) plant, built by a Chinese contractor, supplies 30 percent of Batam’s total power demand of 383 Mw. The plant uses up to 30,000 tons of coal a month to fire its generators. Residents were stopped by the police as they approached the station’s managers on Jan. 2 to demand that the plant be shut down.
A Telaga Punggur neighborhood unit chief, Susanto, said that residents wanted to ask the station’s managers to stop off loading coal from a ship berthed nearby using a conveyer belt due to the ensuing dust pollution. “We have urged a temporary stoppage of operations until a solution regarding our complaint is reached,” Susanto said. He said that the areas around the power station had been covered in coal dust and soot since the plant came on line.
“Besides health disorders, like respiratory and skin ailments, the homes of residents have also been covered in black ash,” Susanto said. Representatives from several neighborhood and community units have said that they attended a meeting with the power station’s management, which promised to wash down the coal before it was unloaded so as not reduce the amount of coal dust falling on the community.
Dozens protest unemployment in South Sinai
Egyptian youth burned tires at a protest against unemployment and corruption in front of the South Sinai Governorate headquarters Tuesday.
Others quikcly joined in and blocked the main road linking Cairo and Sharm El-Sheikh. Demonstrators say nepotism and unfair land pricing is taking jobs away from young people. “Youth cannot get jobs or even [start] projects,” said protester Talat Mubarak. Security forces surrounded the building to prevent protesters from storming governorate offices.
Later, they evacuated employees who were having difficulty breathing due to the heavy tire smoke. South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda responded with promises to lead a committee that includes the governorate’s secretary general, a judicial adviser and Bedouin chiefs to determine fair prices for land. Protesters also threatened to gather at the Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport should the governor ignore their demands.