China: Taxi Drivers and Railway Workers on Strike

A new wave of strikes are taking place in China. This time it is not among rural migrant workers working in sweatshops, but among drivers and employees in the urban public transportation sector. It indicates how inflation and soaring costs are affecting city dwellers whose living standards keep depreciating.

Taxi drivers strike in Hangzhou

In Hangzhou, the largest city in Zhejiang Province in eastern China, a taxi drivers strike began on August 1, 2011 and continued for about three days.

Famous current affairs columnist and Weibo micro-blogger, Chen Jieren reported on August 2:

More than 8,000 taxi drivers participated in a strike in Hanzhou.

More than 8,000 taxi drivers participated in a strike in Hanzhou.



[Hangzhou taxi Drivers’ strike has gained some positive response] On August 1, Hangzhou taxi drivers demonstrated against expensive fuel prices and car rent, more than 8,000 taxis joined the demonstration early in the morning. In the afternoon, the government said they would introduce two measures: 1. Adjusting the taxi fees at the end of October; 2. The government will provide 1 yuan per ride subsidy for the drivers. The drivers may continue the strikes, if they are not satisfied with the new measures.

According to Reuters, the striking drivers were not satisfied with the offer, and continued their protest. Reuters also reported that drivers’ attempts to post comments to Weibo were being blocked or removed, and that local media refused to cover the strike.

Human rights lawyer Zhang Kai explained the reason behind the taxi strike:


The Hangzhou taxi drivers’ strike is predictable. Earlier this year, when I had a trip in Hangzhou, I found it so difficult to stop a taxi. A driver told me that most of them are not locals and their monthly income is less than RMB 2,000 (USD $250). So you can't afford sick leave or an accident. Property in Hanzhou costs more than RMB 10,000 per square meter, a life time of saving wouldn't buy you an apartment.

Also on Weibo, @hzhouse pointed out that the problem with exploitation of taxi license holding companies has not been solved:


This morning, taxi drivers went on strike. They complained about traffic jams and low incomes. They earn about RMB 500 (USD $80) in one working day, but have to pay RMB 220 to the taxi license holding company and RMB 200 for the fuel. Their net income ends up at around RMB 70-80 (US$12). Once you subtract rent and food, there is nothing left. Most of the media reports talked about expensive fuel prices, traffic jams and low subsidies. What about the money given to the license holding companies? Why are ordinary people always the victims?

The living condition of an ordinary taxi driver family in Hangzhou

A set of photos showing the living condition of an ordinary taxi driver has attracted a lot of attention on Weibo (via @2074609565).


[Camera] The living condition of Hangzhou taxi driver: Quchang Driver Mr. Lam, originally from Dongbei province. 49 years-old and his wife 46. Has a 23-year-old son. The tree of them have lived in Huzhou Caima village since they arrived in Hangzhou. They sleep in one bed. The size of his room, plus toilet is 10 square meters. His monthly net income is about RMB 1500, rent is RMB1100 excluding water and electricity expenses. The driver said jokingly, “People said Hangzhou is a paradise, but what I have experienced is hell.”

On August 3, @zhaxuchu criticized Hangzhou city mayor's stability-comes-first principle in responding to the taxi strike:


[There is no stability if people don't have food to eat] As a result of the rise in fuel prices, taxi drivers can't make enough money and have gone on strike. The Hangzhou city mayor Zhao Jianwei said the government has to defend the rights of the majority of taxi drivers to run their business by cracking down on the radical minorities. They would crush them one by one in order to stabilize society — my mayor, the premise of stability is to have enough income for food. Very few people want to become drivers now, do you know?

Railway workers strike in Changsha

Employees of the railway company also held a strike at the Changsha railway station in Hunan province in south-central China on August 2, 2011. The incident is highly sensitive, because the Chinese Communist Party marks a series of railway workers’ strikes in 1922 as an early success of the political movement.

A Changsha-based lawyer, Gan Yuanchun shared the news with a photo:

Sina weibo image from Gan Yuanchun

The lawyer quoted a BBS (online bulletin board) report that there were around 300 railway workers on strike at Changsha railway station. It is unclear what has triggered the strike. A local newspaper, ‘Daily Economic News’ followed the story and said that the strike was triggered by a minor labour dispute over the replacement of several passenger carriage directors at the Zhuzhou Service Division from Guangzhou Railway Corporation. Nevertheless, netizens still noticed the political implications of railway workers in the history of the People's Republic of China. In Gan Yuanchun's discussion thread:

hampan 铁路工人再做一次先锋队?(8月3日 21:17)

@hampan Have the railway workers once again become frontier soldiers? (August 3, 21:17)

非典型医生 我外公,就参加过广州铁路工人大#罢*工。恍如隔世啊~~~(8月3日 21:11)

@1584233735 My grandpa participated in the Guangzhou railway workers’ strike. This is like a playback of history… (August 3 21:11)

浩浩歌爾 回复@Nethuhz:工人们起来了,我们学生也应该上场了~!(8月3日 20:45)

@linhaobest888 reply to @Nethuhz: The workers are taking action, students should be next. (August 3 20:45)
This post is co-authored by Oiwan Lam

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