A pay dispute at a southern Chinese toy factory escalate into a mass riot Wednesday, as laid-off workers stormed the plant, smashed office computers and flipped over a police car in Dongguan, China.

As reported by AP, this latest wave of violent protest reflects merely the ever-so weakened economy devastated by the global financial crisis. “When times are bad economically, a small incident can rapidly become a big one,” said local Communist Party official Guo Chenming, who monitoring the situation outside the restive toy factory.

The riot began when the plant’s Hong Kong owner, Kader Holdings Company Ltd., prepared to lay off 216 migrant workers. According to Guo, “80 senior workers claimed they were getting shortchanged on their severance pay, and they mobilized a mob of 500 — mostly other unemployed workers and friends.”

One laid-off factory worker accused police of igniting the riot, believing that, “The factory’s management and the local officials really look down on the workers.”

Refuting this claim is Guo, who contests that it “would be foolish for the police to incite such a massive crowd,” and that the 80 workers who did not receive full severance as a consequence of bad performance. However, he did also add that the company was also to blame, as they did not fully understand new labor laws which may have prevented such an incident.

The recent riot in Dongguan is just one of many toy factory events to have unfold this year as a result of rising cost of wage ($112 a month), raw material, and currency fluctuations amidst global financial crisis. Last month, one of Dongguan’s biggest toy factories who produced toys for Hasbro and Mattel Inc. closed its doors, laying off 7,00 workers who were left unpaid, frustrated, and mad.

Lo Foo-cheung, the vice president of The Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong. Lo believes that more closures and layoff will occur in the next few months.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business decision,” Lo said. “It’s all about survival.”

Source: AP