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Cabby strike continues in Sanya, ends in Yongdeng
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Taxi drivers in the southern Chinese city of Sanya continued to strike Tuesday with hundreds of cabbies gathering in front of the government building, while their counterparts in the northwest of the country returned to work.

More than 100 cabbies gathered in front of the building of Sanya city government in the morning, and the number of drivers increased to more than 300 at around noon.

The taxi drivers repeated demands for intervention on issues including high monthly taxi rental fees and unlicensed cabs, and called for the release of 21 people who have been detained by police over involvement in violence during the strike.

The 21 people reportedly attacked taxi drivers who would not participate in the strike and smashed 15 cabs, according to a spokesman of local police bureau.

Sanya's Acting Mayor Wang Yong on Monday evening ordered local officials to resolve the strike as soon as possible, while expressing support for the establishment of a cabby association, which was one of the demands of striking drivers.

There are about 1,050 licensed cabs in Sanya, a major tourist city in south China's island province of Hainan. Those cabs are owned by six companies, taxi drivers said. However, the number of unlicensed cabs is twice the number of licensed ones.

Taxi drivers on strike also blamed some companies who ignored a municipal government policy that reduced monthly rental fees for cabs by 26 percent starting Jan. 1, a move intended to make the cabbies' lives easier.

Chen Zhibang, head of the city's transportation bureau, said representatives have been sent to listen to cab drivers' complaints and persuade them back to work.

Also, Chen said more buses have been put into service after the strike began on Monday.

However, cabbies have not named a representative to meet with government officials, so negotiations are at a standstill. A driver, who refused to be identified, said they fear retaliation when the strike is over.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers in Yongdeng County, of the northwestern Gansu Province, agreed to end their strike after the county government promised to put forward a plan within 10 days to get rid of competition from unlicensed cabs.

The local government had planned to solved the problem of unlicensed cabs within a week, but changed the time frame to 10 days to ensure the job is done.

There were about 700 illegal cabs operating in the county, stealing business from licensed drivers, according to a representative of striking divers. There were about 280 licensed cabs in the county. Half of the drivers went on strike Monday.

"Some of us returned to work on Monday evening after the government made promises. The rest resumed service on Tuesday morning," said a taxi driver named Ma Jiangshan. Ma said he was satisfied with the government's attitude in tackling their complaints.

Both strikes, in Sanya and Yongdeng, broke out days after a similar cab strike in China's fourth largest city, Chongqing.

(Xinhua News Agency November 11, 2008)

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