May 27, 2024

Shanghai Truckers’ Protest Ebbs With Concessions Won on Fees

It remained unclear whether the concessions would end the demonstrations, which had turned violent on Wednesday when about 2,000 angry truckers blockaded some cargo facilities and tried to overturn police cars.

The city’s Municipal Transport and Port Authority said Saturday that it would repeal a fuel surcharge that had been imposed on trucks serving the port and reduce others, including a 50-renminbi ($7.70) surcharge on shipping containers that was cut to 20 renminbi ($3.08).

The drivers had demanded that that fee be repealed as well, news agencies reported, and negotiations between the two sides on Saturday produced no immediate agreement. But the port, parts of which had been rocked by blockades and protests earlier in the week, was calm.

The truckers’ protest has drawn widespread attention in part because it underscores rising concern among ordinary citizens and their government over inflation and its potential to stir public unrest. The cost-of-living index grew by 5.4 percent in March compared with a year earlier, the sharpest increase in 32 months, and food costs rose at more than twice that rate.

But the protests are also notable because they have unfolded amid what many call the toughest crackdown on public criticism of the government in years, if not decades. The Shanghai truckers’ demonstration was suppressed by an overwhelming turnout of police officers after Wednesday’s violence, but the authorities have permitted more limited protests.

Until Saturday, the entire episode had gone unreported in China’s state-controlled news media, probably because the authorities feared that word of an inflation-related demonstration might inspire copycat protests elsewhere.

On Saturday, the government’s Xinhua news agency reported that fees had been lowered or abolished to address truckers’ concerns about rising fuel costs and transport fees.

The Shanghai port authority issued a statement saying that the fee changes were directed at “easing rising inflation and cost pressures on transport companies.” It made no mention of the protests.

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