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Police attack workers’ protests in Chongqing and Zigong (Sichuan)

Monday 30 March 2009, by Robert Paris

Police attack workers’ protests in Chongqing and Zigong (Sichuan)

Mon, 16 Mar 2009. In western China security forces have cracked down on workers’ struggles in recent weeks


In Chongqing 800 workers have been occupying their abandoned textile factory for several months, as part of a long battle for unpaid benefits and compensation arising from the fake ’bankruptcy’ of the plant and its sale to speculators. In Zigong, a city in Sichuan province, police clashed with about a thousand laid-off textile workers fighting against the privatisation of their factory.

Police arrack workers’ occupation in Tongliang 15-16 February

Five workers from the silk factory in Tongliang, Chongqing municipality, were detained by police for organising a sit-in in the factory. Tang Aimin (唐爱民), Hu Weimin (胡卫民), Li Taiyuan (李太元), Ou Hongyong (欧红勇) and Wang Yu (汪宇), acted as representatives of about 800 laid-off workers demanding pensions and medical insurance after the plant’s closure.

The workers took over the plant as part of an ongoing campaign for their demands. On 15 February police lured the five representatives into a trap, ostensibly a meeting to “discuss the problem of the plant”. They were summarily seized instead on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” and threatening public security. These charges could send them to prison for years. Police also warned the other protesters that if they “create problems,” they too would be arrested.

On 16 February, about 2,000 government workers mobilised by the local government surrounded the silk factory and ordered the occupying workers to leave. When the sit-in protesters refused, local officials ordered a group to enter the factory, but these were forced to pull back when the sit-in protesters threatened to set off explosive oxygen containers.

The Tongliang factory was declared bankrupt in 1996 and was sold in 1998. At the time of the sale, the workers were not notified of the fate of the factory and were dismissed with severance packages of between RMB 5,000 and 6,000. The workers suspected that the factory was sold at a massive discount and that the sale was a result of corrupt dealings involving local officials. After studying the legal position, the workers believe that they are entitled to pensions, medical insurance, or at least compensation appropriate to the number of years they have worked in the factory. They set about petitioning the local government over these awards, but this led nowhere.

In 2008 all the plant’s machinery was sold and the building was slated for demolition in favour of a highly lucrative real estate deal. At that point ex-plant workers started their occupation of the premises to protest their condition, preventing the demolition from going ahead.

Zigong workers’ struggle 20-23 February

Police clashed with about 1,000 workers from a textile factory in Zigong City, Sichuan Province, who have been demonstrating outside of the Zigong City government building. Six protestors were beaten and injured by the police.

A source at the Zigong government offices said the matter was related to the factory being changed from a state-owned company to a private enterprise, refusing to give more details.

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