November 3, 2008 / 7:29 AM / 9 years ago

China city's stressed-out cabbies go on strike

<p>Residents and taxi drivers stand beside a row of taxis parked along a street in Chongqing municipality November 3, 2008.Stringer</p>

BEIJING (Reuters) - Taxi drivers who broke a strike and returned to work in a southwest Chinese city Monday asked officials for protection after angry crowds smashed about 20 cabs, police cars and other vehicles, state media said.

Cab drivers in Chongqing, China's fourth-largest city, staged a rare strike Monday in protest against a series of gripes ranging from the scarcity of fuel to heavy traffic fines, Xinhua news agency said.

Three police cars and more than a dozen other vehicles were smashed by a crowd of about 100 people in the city's Jiangbei district, the agency said.

The crowd, made up mainly of striking cab drivers, intercepted working taxis and pulled their drivers and passengers from the cars.

"All cab drivers agreed to stop work, and we damaged the cabs of those who didn't keep their word," Xinhua quoted an unidentified striker as saying.

<p>Taxis line up to drive in protest towards the Grand Hotel, the location where Chen Yunlin, Chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), is staying in Taipei November 3, 2008.Pichi Chuang</p>

Less than one-tenth of the 9,000 cab drivers in Chongqing's urban zones had returned to work by Monday afternoon after taxis vanished from roads during the morning rush hour, Xinhua said.

The strike was blamed on "insufficient supplies of compressed natural gas, which powers most taxis in the city, competition from unlicensed cabs, and huge fines for traffic violations," Xinhua said, quoting a transport official.

<p>A resident stands beside a row of taxis parked along a street in Chongqing municipality November 3, 2008.Stringer</p>

In a bid to guarantee the safety of strike-breaking drivers, local transportation officials had agreed to ride in their cars, Xinhua said.

Authorities had also promised to punish unlicensed taxi drivers and investigate fuel shortages, the agency added.

China's cab drivers have been squeezed in recent years by sharply rising gas prices and rapid inflation, which have not been fully matched by increases in their rates.

Officials are reluctant to let them charge more because taxis are a key means of getting around in a country where car ownership is still relatively limited and public transport is often crammed and slow.

Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie and Paul Tait

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