January 15, 2009 / 11:45 AM / 12 years ago

Unpaid workers clash with riot police in eastern China

BEIJING, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Hundreds of construction workers angry at unpaid wages, blocked a major bridge and clashed with riot police in eastern China, a Hong Kong-based rights group said on Thursday.

Chinese officials have warned of surging protests and riots in 2009, as a slowing economy sees more workers laid off and companies struggle to pay salaries.

Some 1,000 workers blocked the bridge spanning China’s Yangtze river in eastern Anhui province on Tuesday afternoon, and were dispersed by about 500 riot police later that evening, the Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy said in a statement faxed to Reuters.

"Ten workers were hurt in clashes (with the riot police)," it said.

Local police and a spokesman for the developer which employed the workers confirmed the incident, but said the dispute had been resolved.

"Because Chinese New Year is coming, some workers had booked tickets to go home, so they were angry with the company," the company spokesman, who declined to leave his name, told Reuters by telephone.

The spokesman said less than 100 workers had had a salary dispute with the company after it ran into "some capital problem with banks".

"Now the problem has been resolved and workers got their salaries," the spokesman said.

China has grappled with a number of strikes involving taxi drivers, police and laid-off factory workers in recent months, as economic growth has slowed amid the global financial crisis.

The government has launched a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package to pump-prime the economy, amid fears that millions of newly unemployed workers could spark a wave of strikes and social unrest. (Reporting by Ian Ransom and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Valerie Lee)

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