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Police protection as cabbies strike

Almost every taxi in service in Xining, Qinghai Province, had a police officer on board for fear that striking drivers might attack working drivers, as a cab strike moved into its second day yesterday.

More than 100 drivers joined a sit-in in front of the Xining municipal government building yesterday morning, demanding permanent operating rights for their privately owned taxis. At least 300 police kept order at the scene.

The number of striking cabbies was at least halved compared with Sunday, but still very few taxis could be seen on Xining's streets. The city has around 5,110 taxis, which are managed by five taxi firms. Almost 90 percent of taxis are privately owned.

Drivers pay their taxi company a monthly management fee of 600 yuan (US$88).

The strike extended to Ping'an County in Haidong Prefecture, with more than 300 taxis parked on either side of a major road in the county.

"Most drivers are peasants or laid-off workers," said a female driver who declined to be identified. "We spent 150,000 yuan on the license and at least 50,000 yuan on the car, but make 1,000 yuan a month at most. When the license expires, it means most of our money was spent for nothing."

Deputy county chief Ma Yuxiang said the government was trying to talk the drivers out of striking while waiting for a potential policy change.

"But the drivers' demand for permanent operating rights is completely out of the question," he said.


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