Tax fight escalates into Zhejiang riot as 28 are detained

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Twenty-eight people have been detained after a violent mob clashed with police and damaged private cars and public property in Zhejiang Province in the past two days after a dispute between tax authorities and a local shop owner.

The incident began on Wednesday after a children's clothing store owner in the town of Zhili in Wuxing District in Huzhou City refused to make tax payments to local officials and then mustered other shop keepers to rally in support.

A crowd of more than 100 people marched to the township government building on Wednesday night, hurling rocks and smashing traffic lights, billboards and cars. They damaged more than 30 private vehicles parking on the roadside, according to the government website of Wuxing District.

The dispute spilled onto the street and drew more than 600 people. Several policemen and urban management officials were hurt during the clash before protesters were dispersed, the district government said.

As the crowd tried to smash a passing sedan, the frightened driver accelerated to flee and his car hit 10 people. All the wounded were admitted to the hospital, and two were reported in serious condition.

Yesterday afternoon, some people gathered again to attack vehicles and clashed with police. One policeman and three police assistants were slightly injured while one police car was burned before the situation was controlled.

During the two incidents, police detained a total of 28 people, among whom five will face criminal charges for assaulting, damaging vehicles and disturbing social order, the Huzhou city government said on its website late yesterday.

The vendor from Anhui Province who led the riot has reportedly refused to pay taxes several times. Netizens on claimed that the town of Zhili had forced local vendors to turn in additional taxes, which triggered the wide anger.

According to the provincial news portal Zhejiang Online, many of the shop owners who initially began marching toward the township government building were from Anhui Province.

Children's clothing dealers in Zhili, one of China's children's wear centers, were reportedly forced to pay tax if they have sewing machines at home because they depended on these machines to earn money. The tax has been dubbed the "sewing machine tax."

The Wuxing district government said on its website that it will make efforts to pacify the situation and investigate the case. It didn't say how the government will solve the tax disputes with local shop owners.

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