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Canned-Gas Delivery Workers in Central China Hold Strike Over Industry Monopoly

Between May 20 and 23, nearly 1,000 self-employed deliverers gathered at various logistic spots of Meiqiduo Company, the sole liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) distributor appointed by the Changsha authorities months ago, in protest against industry monopolization.

In Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan Province, a considerable number of residents, restaurants, and vendors in remote areas still use LPG, as the installation of natural gas pipelines has covered only urban areas since 2005. There are about ten LPG distributors in Changsha, and self-employed gas delivery workers are contracted by these companies to earn 20 yuan (about $2.76) for each tank of LPG delivered to a customer. Delivery drivers are required to supply their own vehicles and tools.

But things have altered since this January. The Xiangjiang new district authority of Hunan Province revamped the canned LPG industry and integrated the previous distributors into one: Changsha Hongye Gas Co. Ltd, with the sole distributor designated as Meiqiduo Company.Such a move outraged delivery workers, who said they lost half of their income as a result.

Huang Yao (a pseudonym) is among those self-employed deliverymen who have been working for over seven years in Huanghua Town in Changsha.

He told The Epoch Times, “After the sole distributor became Meiqiduo Company, the delivery fee has plummeted to 11 yuan ($1.52) per can, nearly half compared to before.

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“Many delivery drivers have been engaging in this job for more than a decade and have invested at least 700,000 to 800,000 yuan (about $96,600-$110,000) and rely on it to support their families.”

That large investment, as he said, includes a standardized yellow car and LPG canisters stipulated by the authorities, as well as market exploration, customer service, and equipment maintenance, among other expenses.

The workers had no choice but to go on strike to defend their rights, as they were losing the logistics market and customer base, which they endeavored for years, he said.

According to Mr. Huang, the walkout of nearly 1,000 gas deliverymen lasted for three days, directly affecting the daily lives of people in rural areas and triggering a wider range of public grievances.

“During the time delivery workers went on strike, many residents were left without gas for cooking, and the business of some restaurants was seriously affected, so citizens approached the authorities to complain.”

Under pressure, the government feared that the strike would expand, so, according to Mr. Huang, it demanded that the Meiqiduo Company not enter the logistic market before it could negotiate with the delivery workers.

Several protesters detained by the police were later released.

An Epoch Times reporter contacted the Meiqiduo Company and the Changsha government for comment, but neither responded.

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