Accessibility links

Asian Workers Demand Higher Pay in May Day Demos

Across the Asia Pacific region, workers marked this year's May Day holiday with mostly peaceful demonstrations for higher pay and better working conditions. Sporadic violence erupted in Sydney, and arrests of protesters were made in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

While May Day protests in Australia usually target big business, activists this year turned their attention to other causes, including the environment, globalization and the plight of asylum seekers.

In central Sydney, about 500 demonstrators from a loose alliance of left-wing groups environmentalists and labor organizations surrounded offices belonging to the company in charge of managing five refugee detention centers.

The protest turned violent when police on horseback charged into the crowd, a move which the activists claim was aimed at inciting violence. Some 14 people were arrested and dozens detained.

In the Philippines, riot police were on what they called "double red alert," expecting violence from supporters of the deposed president Joseph Estrada. Six people died last year when backers of the former president attempted to storm the presidential palace.

This year, several thousand supporters of the ousted president gathered about a mile from the presidential palace, but there was no violence. A separate protest outside the U.S. Embassy against the American military presence in the Southern Philippines was also peaceful.

Earlier in the day, police say they raided a house where they found bombs and explosives. Two suspected Muslim extremists were killed in the raid and three others were arrested.

In Malaysia, 12 protesters were arrested when about 500 plantation workers took to the streets in the capital city Kuala Lumpur, demanding higher wages. They where met by riot police armed with water cannons. A brief scuffle ensued, but the crowd dispersed without an incident.

In Beijing, China, where huge parades used to mark Labor Day, thousands gathered in Tiananmen Square in the early morning for the raising of the Chinese flag. State television showed couples dancing and men playing tug-of-war to show workers enjoying themselves on their day off.

In sharp contrast with the past, the government bestowed medals and praise on successful entrepreneurs, honoring them out as "model workers."