Taxis stage strike in central Chinese city
By HENRY SANDERSON,Associated Press Writer AP - 2 hours 50 minutes ago
BEIJING - Hundreds of taxi drivers went on strike Monday in a city in central China, angry over a new government-imposed license fee, local drivers and a rights group said.
The streets of Suizhou, in Hubei province, were empty as hundreds of drivers kept their cars at home. The city has 550 licensed taxi drivers, according to a government notice.
"There's not a single cab running on the roads of Suizhou now. We will not stop the strike until the government meets our demand, which is they remove their fee," said a driver who only gave his surname, Chen. He did not want to be further identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
It was the latest round of protests by taxi drivers in several parts of China upset at increased costs and unlicensed competition.
The unrest highlights the increasing anxiety felt by many workers over their incomes and job security as the Chinese economy slows. News about the global financial crisis and plunging markets is also adding to concerns.
The Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, a China-based activist organization, said in a statement that a small group of taxi drivers gathered near the city's railway station, and another went to the city government to present a petition.
The Suizhou government announced last week that taxi drivers would have to pay a fee of 4,000 yuan ($585) before the end of the year to keep their taxi license or it will be confiscated, according to the Suizhou Daily newspaper.
The new operating fee is an attempt by the government to regulate the market, as previously free business licenses were getting illegally resold among drivers for as high as 260,000 yuan ($38,000), the article said.
"Many of the drivers are not running their cars today. The fee is a bit too much because our business hasn't been great, the market is poorly managed," said a driver surnamed Zhang, who did not want to give his first name.
The protest comes on the heels of a strike in the southwestern city of Chongqing by 9,000 taxi drivers earlier this month over rental fees and fuel shortages.
It also prompted scores of drivers in other parts of the country _ including hundreds in the southern city of Shantou last week _ to take similar action.
Zhang Li, a woman who answered the telephone at the Suizhou government office said officials had not received any information about the strike, and referred queries to the traffic management bureau. A man who only gave his surname, Guan, at the traffic management bureau said they had not noticed the strike and refused to answer any questions.
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