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30 drivers drink poison in Chinese taxi protest
By Jonathan Pearlman
A GROUP of taxi drivers in China were found unconscious and frothing at the mouth outside a shopping centre after they tried to poison themselves as part of an anti-government protest.
Photographs posted on social media showed stunned crowds staring at the collapsed drivers from behind police cordons.
More than 30 drivers apparently drank chemicals as part of the protest at the Wangfujing shopping centre in Beijing, with at least 10 seriously affected according to witnesses.
Police said all the drivers were taken to hospital and were described as "out of danger" yesterday (Sunday).
A police statement said the drivers were all from a city in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia.
It said they were "individual" drivers, suggesting they did not work for taxi companies, but were required to obtain government contracts.
The drivers travelled to Beijing to petition against a four-year-old reform affecting taxi company leasing renewals, The South China Morning Post reported.
A driver, who spoke to the newspaper before police intervened, said: "We arrived by train on Monday but got no response after taking our complaint to both the state bureau for letters and calls and the ministry of transport."
Labour and environmental disputes with authorities are common in China and have occasionally involved self-harm or suicide.