Homeowners protest, seek compensation over property damage
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday demanded equal treatment for all firefighters who died in the deadly Tianjin blasts, adding that they should enjoy the same compensation and honor no matter if they were in active service or employed by enterprises. [Special coverage]
Li's remarks came as protests broke out on Sunday in Tianjin with local residents and families of the missing firefighters demanding more information and government aid.
More than 15 relatives of firefighters who were employed by Tianjin Port Group reportedly came to the Mayfair Hotel in Binhai New Area on Sunday, where authorities had held press conferences in the previous days, to ask for more information on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
On Saturday, a number of relatives of missing firefighters stormed a press briefing, demanding information and asking for equal treatment for firefighters hired by enterprises.
Xue Tao, whose firefighter brother is missing, told the Global Times Sunday that his brother has been a port firefighter for three years and he must have been among the first group to enter into the blast zone since their station is nearby.
Xue and his family have searched hospitals as the authorities had not given them any information.
"We have prepared for the worst, but we insist on seeing him, alive or dead," said Xue.
There are still 95 people missing, 85 of whom are firefighters, authorities said at a Sunday press briefing.
Privately hired firefighters only earn 3,000 to 4,000 yuan ($640) monthly, lower than regular firefighters, and they do not receive the same welfare benefits as regular firefighters, the China Business Journal reported. Regular firefighters are part of China's armed police force, and governed by the Ministry of Public Security.
Meanwhile, more than 100 residents whose homes were damaged also protested outside the Mayfair Hotel Sunday, asking the government to purchase their properties to compensate for their loss.
One man, surnamed Zhang, said he and his family are living at a temporary shelter after evacuating from their home in Qihang Community, 800 meters from the blast site. He said he hopes the government will find them alternative accommodation and arrange psychological counseling.
More than 17,000 people were living in property that was damaged in the blast, China News Service reported.
Li Wei, a resident of Haigangcheng Community, only 600 meters from the blast site, told the Global Times that residents worry chemicals may harm their health and that there might be another explosion.
Meanwhile, the media has been pressuring local authorities to provide more details on the company that owns the warehouse, Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics.
One of its two major shareholders was quoted by news portal finance.qq.com in a Sunday report as saying that he knew nothing about the company.
Shu Zheng, who owns 45 percent of the company's shares, said that a friend used his identity to register as a shareholder of the company and he did not participate in the company's operation.
Nothing could be found about another listed shareholder Li Liang, so far.
Authorities had refuted rumors that the general manager of the company, Zhi Feng, has connections with a former deputy mayor of Tianjin.