BEIJING: A raid by officers on small bathhouses and other businesses associated with prostitution sparked clashes lasting hours in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, police said Monday.
The riot Sunday in the city's Sanyuanli district was started by people who were resisting inspections, according to a statement on the Guangzhou police's microblog. It said crowds gathered and roads were blocked, but additional officers dispatched to the scene were able to restore order at about 8 p.m.
There was no mention of injuries or arrests, although photos on popular social media sites showed several police vehicles lying on their sides after having been flipped. Hundreds of people, mostly young men, were seen standing in the street in the industrial suburb on the outskirts of one of China's most prosperous cities, which includes a large population of migrant factory workers.
Calls to the Guangzhou police headquarters and spokesman's office rang unanswered.
The police statement said officers were targeting what is known as the "five small venues," namely small bathhouses, small cyber cafes, small inns, small Karaoke bars and small beauty salons. Such businesses are largely run and patronized by migrants, who enjoy fewer social and legal protections than native residents.
China sees tens of thousands of so-called "mass incidents" each year, often fueled by anger at the authorities, income inequality and a legal system seen as weak and capricious. Sociologist Sun Liping estimates there are about 180,000 per year, ranging from organized marches to spontaneous protests and even violence sparked by anger over working conditions, corruption, environmental degradation and ethnic unrest.
Obsessed with maintaining social stability, China suppresses information about many such incidents and they often go unreported in the entirely state-controlled media.