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Strikes in China

vendredi 14 novembre 2008, par Robert Paris

site China worker

Struggles in China

site China Labour bulletin


More than 100,000 in mass protests in three Chinese provinces

Thu, 11 Sep 2008.
On the single day of 4th September, three large-scale mass protests occurred in the cities of Jishou in Hunan Province, Ningbo in Zhejiang Province, and Shenqiu in Henan Province. The number of people who got involved may have reached as many as 100,000.

Chen Lizhi,

During the two days of 3rd and 4th September, in the city of Jishou in Hunan province, there occurred continuously a large-scale mass protest. The reason was that the property-developers in the city of Jishou have obtained a huge amount of land for commercial development from the local government during the period of the property market boom from 2004 to 2007, but they did not really possess the capital to engage in the development. From 2004 under the recognition and support of the local government more than 30 enterprises and individuals, with a high monthly interest rate of 3%, 5%, 8% and 10% as bait, collected funding from the populace, and many local officials joined in the scramble for profits. The whole fund-raising activity affected up to 100,000 local people and involved a capital of 7 billion Chinese Yuan (1 billion US dollar). During July and August of this year, the local officials who originally participated in the fund-raising and the scrambling for profits withdrew their investments in secret, but the information leaked to the outside world. This caused a massive wave of withdrawal by the masses, which the property-developers were unable to repay, leading to the outbreak of protest.

On the eve of 3rd September several thousand people who had given money to the developers to the state government office to present their case, and in order to attract attention some of the people deliberately laid down on the rail tracks in the train station at Jishou for more than an hour as a sign of protest. (Jishou is an important mid-point along the rail route between Guangdong and Guangxi provinces and the capital, Beijing). They were forced to leave after officials and policemen came. During the morning of 4th September, the people massed together again, and this time the number of people may have reached as many as 20,000. They sat down on the ground as a sign of protest at the train station as well as at several main roads in the city, and more than 100,000 people came to watch them. This obstructed the rail and road transportation at Jishou. The local government called in mobile police forces from the nearby cities of Changsha, Huaihua and Zhangjiajie as reinforcements. The armed police violently engaged with the masses, the people threw stones and bottles at the police, while the police suppressed the masses with batons and tear gas. At the very least more than 30 people were injured and according to reports, 9 protestors were arrested by the police. At the moment, the entire city of Jishou is still under the supervision and control of the police. The local government has made an initial statement that they will try to solve the issue of the lost funds within the next 3 months.

At the same time, another mass incident occurred at Ningbo in the province of Zhejiang. A 14-year old youth fell to the ground and went into coma at one of the clothing factories in the region. As a result his family and more than 500 people from his home village went to the factory to protest, and this led to up to 10,000 people coming to view at the incident. According to reports more than 20 people were beaten by the police that arrived at the scene.

On the same day in the city of Shenqiu in Henan province, more than 2,000 high school students protested at the attempt by local property-developers to commercially develop by force the sports ground purchased from the city educational department. The local government used the police force to suppress the students, leading to 2 female students be injured, and a dozen or so people arrested.

Judging from the quantity and magnitude of the "mass incidents", the so-called "harmonious society" of China’s regime is nothing but a laughing stock. According to official statistics, in 2006 there were more than 90,000 such incidents in China, and in 2007 the number of incidents continued to rise. After this, incidents continued to happen, only with even greater frequency. According to incomplete statistical data, from the Weng’an incident in Guizhou province which occurred on 28th June this year (above 30,000 involved), there occurred one after another the Fugu incident in Shanxi province on 8th (which involved more than 1,000 people), the incident at the county of Menglian in Yunnan province on 19th July (again, involving more than 1000 people), and the mass protest at the District of Chaoyang in Beijing due to the presence of a landfill site that posed an environmental threat to the local populace (with around 500 people getting involved). And on 4th September there occurred the large-scale mass protests in the three provinces of Hunan, Zhejiang and Henan mentioned above.

The CCP regime also hopes to control and reduce the number of mass incidents that happen, and specific to the Weng’an incident in Guizhou, and the Menglian incident in Yunnan, the CCP uncharacteristically engaged in analysis and criticism with an apparently "highly idealistic tone" in the August issue of its party publications, Ban’yue’tan(talking in half-month, bi-weekly) and Liao’wang(Outlook, weekly), and it warned the local officials that they must not let "the accumulation of too much anger to the extent of allowing no way back for themselves". But by the end of the this month, mass protests and incidents continued to happen one after another in numerous regions, from this we can see that under the capitalist exploitation and bureaucratic elitism, the fire of anger expressed by the people can no longer be contained. believes that the only way out for the populace of China is to establish a genuine socialist society under the democratic control and management of the working class and the labouring masses in China and also internationally. shall firmly defend all of the struggles of the working class and other oppressed layers for their basic rights.


Workers’ protests in Shanghai
Thu, 11 Dec 2008.

1,000 workers stage rare sit-in protest outside a Shanghai factory

Around 1,000 predominantly young women workers demanding unpaid overtime, bonuses and benefits, have staged protests at two electronics factories in Shanghai for the past three days. The factories owned by Shanghai Yihsin Industry Company, part of the Singapore-listed Huan Hsin Group, have stopped production leaving the workforce in the lurch. This is the latest example of industrial action in China as factories close and cheat workers out of entitlements due to the economic slowdown.

Young worker shows bruises after police attack on sit-down protest

"I know the economy is bad now, but none of us can stand being badly treated by our employers," protest organizer Ding Xiaohua told AFP.

Protests began on Monday at two of Shanghai Yihsin Industry Company’s six factories in the southwestern suburb of Minhang. At one of the plants, workers staged a sit-in at the factory gates. Reuters commented that "this week’s demonstrations are believed to be among the first major protests in Shanghai, China’s commercial capital.” The factories make parts including shells for laptop computers and printers for global giants like Siemens, Sony and Lucent Technologies, which are making drastic cutbacks as the worldwide capitalist crisis deepens.

Workers complain they are owed a 1,200-yuan (175-dollar) bonus for working in temperatures greater than 40 celsius during the summer months. But they have only been paid their regular monthly salaries of about 960 yuan ($140). Additionally, they say their medical insurance has not been paid by the company. They said that since the production stoppage, bosses told them to attend training lectures or move to factories in the same business group. But they had refused to do so without being paid.

Gangsters and police

Workers said that some of their number had been taken away by police on the second day of the protest. They also said they have been threatened since they began their protest. One of the factory workers showed footage recorded on her mobile phone, showing a scuffle with police. She also told Channel News Asia that some of her colleagues had been beaten up by gangsters on Monday.

"It’s very simple, but they have not paid us," explained 21 year old Yuan Lei.

October 2008

Jiangsu workers fight for unpaid wages

Wed, 29 Oct 2008.
More than 1,000 textile workers took to the streets of Wujiang city in eastern China’s Jiangsu province after their employer fled abroad

The workers blocked four streets in the central city area, for five hours on Monday afternoon, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Workers protested because the owner of their company, Chunyu Textile Company, had suddenly disappeared on Friday, apparently absconding along with members of his family, leaving wages unpaid. This is an increasingly familiar pattern as the global capitalist crisis bites, especially affecting export sectors such as textiles. The National Development and Reform Commission reports that 67,000 previously profitable small and medium-sized enterprises collapsed during the first half of the year. It says that two-thirds of textile enterprises are facing "restructuring" – meaning job losses, plant closures and mergers.

The Wujiang protesters only agreed to disperse after a city government official promised to find a solution to their plight. Local governments are increasingly opting to pay out wage arrears – in part at least – to prevent workers’ protests continuing and hardening. This is placing enormous strains on local budgets, already under pressure from falling tax income and loss of land sale receipts due to the property meltdown.

Socialists fully support workers’ protests such as Wujiang’s, but we also call for the nationalisation without compensation of all companies threatening job cuts or closures, and fighting independent trade unions to enable workers to press their case and take democratic control over their factories and the wider economy.

Chinese regions urged to “freeze minimum wages”
Thu, 20 Nov 2008.

Workers pay for crisis in bosses’ system

China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (Labour Ministry) has issued a directive telling local governments to freeze minimum wages because of the economic crisis. This measure, to take effect from 1 December, forms part of the government’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus package, and is necessary to “avoid putting additional pressure on companies” according to Xinhua. Employers can also apply to share less of the burden of staff medical insurance and staff injury insurance, the ministry announced.

Governments everywhere are trying to offload the burden of the global capitalist crisis onto the backs of working people and the poor. China’s government is no exception, although its policy pronouncements in recent weeks have seemed highly contradictory. This is because the ‘communist’ government at various levels is coming under contradictory pressures from businesses facing obliteration, property speculators and the banks that deal with them that are hurting from the bursting of the property bubble, and – not least – wage earners who are increasingly taking to the streets in protest against factory closures.

Private firms in trouble

The statement from the central government ministry said that local governments should “take necessary steps” to help companies survive the crisis. The companies that today are threatened with bankruptcy are mostly privately-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that account for 60 percent of China’s GDP and 75 percent of urban employment. The ministry pledged it would increase social welfare and urged local governments to help unemployed workers find new jobs. On both counts, however, no specific details were given of how this would be done.

Minimum wage levels in China are set by local governments and vary considerably from region to region. The common feature is that they are very low. The highest minimum wage is around $106 per month in Shenzhen, the lowest is $35 per month in Jiangxi province. Employers, especially in the private sector, are notorious for underpaying their workers and circumventing minimum wage rules with various devices for example charging for the use of dormitories, company canteens, work uniforms, and imposing fines for illness, slow work and other ‘misdemeanours’.

Employers in exporting regions such as the Pearl River Delta are mounting a campaign of pressure on the ‘communist’ party to revise its Labour Contract Law, introduced in January this year, which they claim threatens their survival. Socialists and labour campaigners criticise this law for providing only very partial protection for workers, above all because the fundamental right to form independent trade unions and struggle for improvements is still outlawed in China. But we oppose concessions to the bosses through revising or suspending the law, which will only increase exploitation.

Boost consumption ?

The freezing of already low minimum wage rates will make it even more difficult for China to develop domestic consumption in order to offset the downturn in external demand. This is another example of the contradictions that are swelling at the present time, making policy-making extremely difficult for the Chinese dictatorship as it tries to navigate the global capitalist crisis.

Workers in China will undoubtedly resist this new attack. Officials in Guangdong province, an industrial powerhouse, already report a tripling of labour disputes this year over last, as the economic climate hardens. Why should the poor and oppressed majority pay for a crisis that is not of their making ? Companies that threaten closure or job cuts should be taken into public ownership and run democratically by the working class – clearly the capitalists are not capable of running them. Their system is in a historic crisis that threatens even worse to come. The only alternative is mass struggle for worldwide socialism.

China sees the rise of “taxi power”

Mon, 17 Nov 2008.

Success of Chongqing taxi drivers’ strike inspires ‘copy cat’ strikes in Gansu and Hainan

Hundreds of taxi drivers in the tourist resort of Sanya, in Hainan province, went on strike for four days last week. In Yongdeng, a county in Gansu Province, another 160 cab drivers ended a similar action after 48 hours, having received assurances from the county government that it would crackdown on unlicensed cabs.

“There were no taxis in service in Sanya on Wednesday, and dozens of cab drivers were still gathered at the government headquarters,” the official Xinhua news agency reported. As in Chongqing, where 8,000 drivers staged a highly visible strike the week before, clashes took place between strikers and drivers who refused to take part in the strike. In Sanya, 20 vehicles were reported damaged, and 28 strikers were arrested by police. Official media reported 103 taxis were damaged and three police vehicles in Chongqing. The release of the arrested strikers became one of the main demands of the Sanya strike.

The drivers are clearly drawing inspiration from each others’ actions, despite a distance of thousands of kilometres. This is ringing alarm bells in Beijing. As Forbes magazine noted : “A series of high-visibility strikes in cities, unusual for China, suggests that the economic downturn has fired up a simmering social cauldron.” This journal linked the upsurge in local protests to Beijing’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus package announced last week. The economic downturn, which has struck China with greater force than most commentators expected only months ago, has also undercut demand for taxi travel. Ordinary Chinese commuters would rather save money and wait for often overcrowded, and slower, buses. This makes it even harder for taxi drivers to get the fares they need in order to meet astronomical rental costs and other overheads.

Regime nervous

In each of these cases, the taxi drivers’ action seems to have forced the authorities into important concessions. The central issue has been the high rental costs paid by drivers to the taxi companies that own the vehicles and issue licenses on behalf of local government. Taxi services in most cities of China have been hived-off from the public sector into private or semi-private operations, with drivers becoming self-employed contractors working for commercial taxi firms. This is a treadmill for the drivers, often forcing them to work more than twelve hours a day, every day, in order to pay of rental fees. Charges in Sanya’s case are 7,200 yuan per month, despite a government ruling on 1 January to drop them to 5,300 yuan – a figure that is still extortionately high. In Chongqing taxi rental fees varied from 5,000 to 8,000 yuan per month, yet taxi companies only paid 1,000 yuan to the city authorities, making it a super-profitable affair for these formerly wholly government-run companies.

Reflecting the nervousness of China’s one-party state as the economy enters a turbulent period of slowdown and deflating speculative bubbles, three transport officials in Sanya including the director of the city’s transport bureau resigned for “dereliction of duty” as a result of the strike. The mayor of the city met with strikers mid-week in a premature attempt to get the strike called off, telling them : “Lots of issues exist in our transport management, and I apologise for that to the city’s taxi drivers.” The signal this will send is that strike action and solidarity can get results even under a dictatorial regime under which strikes are formally illegal.

This is a domino effect from Chongqing, where the strike was ended after provincial leaders including Bo Xilai, a member of China’s politburo, intervened and promised that drivers’ fees for leasing their vehicles would be reduced.

Another issue of contention has been the proliferation of unlicensed taxis, which undercut the licensed taxis. Authorities in several Chinese cities are now cracking down on the unlicensed cabs, evidently fearing new strikes. In Shanghai, local media reported that ten illegal taxi cabs had been seized and “compacted” in an industrial compressor as a “warning” to unlicensed taxi operators. In fact some "unlicensed taxi" have become "tools" for local officials to snatch personnal wealth, but most "unlicensed taxi" drivers are landless peasants and lay-off workers. Since they even cannot afford one-off investment for "licensed taxi", they have to run "unlicensed business" for low income. They have always been exploited and supressed by local officals and policemen. 2 years ago, in Shanghai one "unlicensed taxi driver" stabbed a traffic officer to death, who was in plain clothe as "bait" for fines. He was actually a landless peasant from Anhui province and just borrowed money to buy this car for 2 months. In recent the unrest in Shenzhen was also caused by local government to search "unlicensed car and motarcar". Thus, no matter "licensesd" or "unlicensed" drivers are all exploited by local governments, policemen and taxi company. As workers, they should unite and struggle together.

There is general sympathy for drivers’ demands for a cut in rental fees, but not for an increase in taxi fares, which some groups of strikers have called for. Most significantly, however, drivers in Sanya and Chongqing demanded the right to set up a taxi drivers’ association to represent them in dealings with the taxi companies and authorities. This is a call for a form of independent trade union organisation. Authorities in Sanya are said to have agreed to this demand, although, as experience from other struggles has shown, they will undoubtedly try to neutralise this demand by insisting that any new association is subordinated to the official state-run trade union body, or another arm of the party-government apparatus.

‘Save our jobs’

Incidents of “mass unrest” i.e. strikes and rural uprisings have risen in China in recent years, sparked by grievances spanning official corruption, wage disputes, seizures of land, and environmental issues. The pace of such protests seems to have risen dramatically in recent weeks. Last week, Public Security minister Meng Jianzhu cautioned police to avoid ‘missteps’ when handling street protests, in an unusually frank article in the ruling Communist Party’s journal, Seeking Truth. He argued that authorities should exercise “three cautions” in deploying police, weapons and coercive force. This statement sums up the fears of the powers-that-be over a possible explosion of unrest in the event that officials or state forces act aggressively against popular protests including strikes. It also explains why the taxi drivers’ strikes of recent days have been treated with relative restraint by Chinese government standards.

On one day alone, 10 November, sizable protests broke out in several provinces at the same time. In Hebei’s Malanzhuang town, a crowd protested outside government offices after a peasant was killed by gangsters in a land seizure struggle involving local mafia. At a diesel engine factory in Jiangyan, Jiangsu province, some 2,000 workers took to the streets and laid siege to city hall, shouting ‘Save our jobs’. Because of the downturn in the economy the plant in question is planning to lay off thousands of workers. But their boss is also thought to have absconded with about 100 million yuan (US$14 million), part of which is said to be from the workers’ pension fund. In Shenzhen, Guangdong province, different groups of workers caught in a similar dilemma have been demonstrating on a daily basis outside various government offices. On Friday street clashes with riot police were reported. The South China Morning Post said that more than a dozen protesting workers were injured.

Police Repress Thousands Workers’ Strike with Dogs in South China
Posted by chinaview on December 2, 2007

By Xin Fei, Epoch Times Staff, Nov 30, 2007-

Thousands of workers from the Aigao Electronic Plant in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province went on strike on November 27 to protest raised food prices without consulting them. More than a thousand police arrived on the scene with dozens of dogs to repress them. Many workers were injured by the dogs and arrested.

A worker from the factory interviewed by The Epoch Times on November 28 said that workers left the plant on strike in the morning. He saw hundreds of police armed with anti-riot equipment blocking the road around the factory, and forced the workers back into the factory. Afterwards, the police went into the factory and stationed police on every floor of all the buildings. They forced the workers to resume work. During the day, the police beat some workers’ heads with batons and captured a dozen strike leaders.

Mr. Huang, one of the workers, said that many police vehicles arrived that day. There were many kinds of police, including special police, armed police, anti-explosive police, and public security officers. Police also instructed the dogs to bite workers and used batons to beat workers, including female workers.
“The police seized the strike leaders, kicking and punching them and then dragged them into the police vehicles. Just during the time I was on the spot, I witnessed the police fill 7 or 8 police vehicles with workers and drive away, each car carried about a dozen workers.” He said.

Women Not Spared

“The police were like bandits. They treated workers cruelly. They even kicked girls and beat them with batons. Some girls’ faces were seriously bleeding from the injuries. Some lay on the floor and were unable to move after being kicked. One girl’s skull was broken and kept bleeding.” A woman, Shen, said.

Huang said that the reason for the strike was that the factory issued a notice to deduct more the food expense on November 22. Workers were not happy about it. They wanted to negotiate with the factory, but the factory did not want to meet with them.

Living Conditions Are Intolerable

“It’s not only the increase in the food expense,” Huang said, “The wages are low and the treatment is bad. Sixteen people live in a small hut. Sometimes the food is terrible. They raised the food expense without consulting with workers. So the workers feel it’s intolerable.”
Ms. Shen said that their wage is low. The wage is 690 yuan (approximately US$94) every month, the accommodation deduction is 59 yuan (approximately US$7) per month, and the food expense deduction is 150 plus yuan (approximately US$20) per month. So they only have 400 plus yuan (approximately US$54) left each month. “We cannot afford to buy some good clothes.” She said, “Some workers labor more than 10 hours every day to earn some more money. They stand all the time, many people faint, from fatigue.”
Mr. Huang said that officials of the Dongguan Municipal Labor Bureau went to the factory yesterday, but the leader of the factory has not given a clear explanation.

Police brutality triggers massive riot in China’s Gansu province
Sun, 23 Nov 2008.

“I saw many farmers seriously injured” says eyewitness

An angry crowd of perhaps 10,000 people – some eyewitnesses say 50,000 – battled police in China’s Gansu province over a government relocation plan. In two days of street demonstrations and clashes, 17-18 November, crowds torched cars and attacked the local Communist Party office, injuring 60 officials, according to state-run media. The protests erupted in Wudu, in the poverty-stricken district of Longnan, Gansu province, an area badly damaged by May’s major earthquake. 1.8 million were made homeless by the quake in Gansu, second only to the devastation in Sichuan province where the epicentre lay.

The protesters fear that a plan to relocate the city of Longnan’s administrative center using earthquake reconstruction funds to a less quake-prone location, would mean the abandonment of an existing development plan through which many families have lost their land but not been re-housed or adequately compensated. But eyewitness accounts indicate that brutal, repressive police tactics turned a peaceful protest into the most serious incidence of rioting in China since the “June 28” incident in Weng’an township, Guizhou province, in which crowds of 50,000 laid siege to party offices and police stations. As is increasingly common nowadays in China, even protest by one, relatively small group of aggrieved people can lead to a conflagration in which other layers of the society are drawn in. This is because discontent – over police brutality, official corruption, high prices and low incomes – is reaching crisis levels.

In Longnan, crowds burned cars and battled police with rocks, iron bars and axes, according to the local government’s website. Based on some accounts, the street fighting reached the level of a localised civil war, with demonstrators hijacking a fire engine in order to attack heavily armed police lines. One media report said that 70 percent of the windows in two government buildings were smashed in the hail of rocks and other projectiles.

The violent clashes in Gansu are yet another serious warning sign of rising social unrest in China, which is now exacerbated by the sharp economic slowdown gripping the country as it reels from the effects of global recession and high levels of industrial overcapacity. They are also a sign of general frustration building up over the slow pace of longer-term earthquake relief and reconstruction. State-run news media has reported on numerous strikes and demonstrations across China in recent weeks, including a wave of strikes by taxi drivers and other transport sector workers in at least ten cities.

“Report first”

A new media doctrine is in force as the one-party state contends with increasingly sophisticated blogging and internet coverage of anti-government protests. Propaganda authorities have issued directives to news organisations to report on unrest “rather than allow rumours to take hold” reported the South China Morning Post. “It will benefit us if we report the news first,” one unnamed ‘communist’ party official told the newspaper. Accordingly, in recent weeks local governments have used the taxi drivers’ disputes to stage showpiece meetings between representatives of the drivers and appropriately sympathetic local officials, meetings that have been widely reported and broadcast on the internet. It remains to be seen, however, how far local governments will go from making promises to actually improving taxi drivers’ conditions.

The new policy of official ‘spin’ was evident in the case of the Gansu riots. A Longnan city government statement said the protesters were “incited by a few people with ulterior motives.” This is a timeworn pattern of the ‘communist’ officialdom to discredit protesters as being manipulated by criminal triads, or religious groups varying from Falun Gong to the Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama. Reuters’ report on the Longnan government’s version of events noted that, “its emphasis on the demonstrators’ violence towards police and authorities echoed similarly graphic denunciations of Tibetan uprisings in southern Gansu in March.” [Reuters, 21 November 2008]

Even the official China Daily, in an editorial comment, challenged the stand of Longnan authorities :

“The majority may have been used. But how could troublemakers make the case without a sizeable crowd feeling bad ? Why should people be so angry and vulnerable to instigation ? There must be a reason for it.” [China Daily editorial, 20 November 2008]

Police brutality

The Longnan protest seems to have begun with a small group of people petitioning the local government over their still unaddressed land issues. “There were hundreds of petitioners there last night and this morning,” said the manager of a brick factory.

The picture that emerges from eyewitnesses is of heavy-handed policing that transformed a relatively orderly and small, gathering into a large violent one. Several accounts speak of protesters’ anger over their treatment at the hands of police clearing them from the building site on the first day, 17 November, prompting a larger crowd to return the next day.

“At least a dozen farmers were arrested and wounded last night [17 November]. Many are in the hospital. The city Communist Party totally ignores us. So many farmers went there again this morning, demanding that the government not demolish our houses,” a farmer called Zhou told Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese service.

“Then the farmers had clashes with several hundred armed police. I saw many farmers seriously injured,” she said.

Another witness said the number of protesters reached as many as 50,000 in the second night of protests and that police were deployed from all of the surrounding districts.

“They were holding clubs and shields and used tear gas many times. Then they started to beat up farmers, no matter how young or old. I think at least 100 people were injured,” he said.

The actions of police in Longnan are in sharp contrast with recent statements by China’s top public security official who told local police forces to adopt “a harmonious attitude toward people”. Speaking at a meeting with local police heads, Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu said police should “be fully aware of the challenge brought by the global financial crisis and try their best to maintain social stability”. These comments reflect concern in the topmost circles of the Chinese dictatorship that the police force is becoming increasingly hated by the poor masses. Polices actions have themselves triggered countless riots in recent months, much like the Longnan incident. The depth of unpopularity is reflected in the status of Yang Jia, the Shanghai "police killer" recently sentenced to death for killing six police officers after a case of police mistreatment. Yang’s plight has attracted outpourings of sympathy on the internet.

“No channel” for masses

These events, part of an increasingly familiar pattern in China’s rural areas, will further alarm the central government as it contends with an economic slowdown and the evaporation of the social “stability” in which it sets so much store.

“The local government has become the front line of conflict,” said Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. “But there is no channel to allow people to express their will. They lack the right to speak, the right to organize and unionize to represent their interest, therefore they can only use an irrational way by demonstrating or rioting to solve problems.”

Conditions for the majority of still-poor rural residents are desperate and set to worsen if China enters recession in the coming years. Already, as factories close in coastal manufacturing provinces, migrant workers are returning home in increasing numbers. Hubei province reported 300,000 returned migrants over the last few months, and Chongqing 100,000. This is the background to Longnan’s riots. The migration of 200 million rural poor to cities, of which perhaps 70 million work in factories, has been an “escape valve” from absolute poverty. If this valve is blocked the results can be a massive social explosion, creating tens and hundreds of Longnans !

“Although I don’t have money, the economic recession is related to everyone,” one Longnan resident said. “Right now, people can make a living even by picking up garbage, but if they move the city government, where will we find garbage ? We eat rice and flour now, but if the centre moves away, we will all be eating corn. It will move the economy back 20 years.” calls for the release of those arrested during the Longnan events and an independent investigation into the police actions. Elected committees should decide in matters of land allocation not unelected wealthy officials. These events underline the pressing need for genuine democratic trade unions and farmers’ associations and a new workers’ party in order to fight the global capitalist crisis with socialist polices and international solidarity of the oppressed.

Read China, Sweatshop of the World – The Coming Revolt, by Vincent Kolo and Chen Lizhi, available from

Factory dispute settled after protest
By Zhan Lisheng (China Daily)
Updated : 2008-11-27 07:17

DONGGUAN : A leading toy producer in South China’s Guangdong province has agreed to renew its labor contracts with some senior employees following a violent protest by employees on Tuesday, an official said Wednesday.
The board of directors of the Hong Kong-funded Kader toy factory in the Zhongtang township in Dongguan city has also agreed to, in accordance with the law, offer a new plan about giving economic compensation and bonuses to the employees whose contracts were terminated, Li Zhihui, head of the township, said.
On Tuesday evening, more than 500 workers went on the rampage attacking police vehicles and the company’s offices, police and witnesses said.
Most of the workers had been told by the employer that their contracts would be terminated, and they would receive an average of one month’s wages as compensation.
"That would be less than 1,000 yuan ($143) for most us," a worker was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.
He said about 80 workers had been employed by the company for nearly 10 years, and were therefore unhappy with the compensation.
"They rallied at the company’s gate late on Tuesday afternoon and were soon joined by others," a witness said, on condition of anonymity.
About 1,000 police and security guards were called in to disperse the crowd. This infuriated the protesters, who overturned a police vehicle, smashed at least four police motorcycles, and broke windows and damaged computers in the company’s office building, the witness and a spokesman with the township public security bureau, said.
Other witnesses said at least five workers were injured. This could not be confirmed by the police.
The workers claimed the company, which produces toys for several major international brands, was trying to evade its obligations under China’s labor contract law, which came into effect early this year.
Liu Xiyuan from Hunan province, who has worked at Kaida for 21 years, said he turned down compensation equivalent to eight months’ wages when his contract expired on Nov 19.
"If I had accepted the compensation, it would have meant all my 21 years of work would not have amounted to much," Liu said.
Kaida, which employs 8,000 people, terminated contracts with 380 workers on Nov 19.
A further 216 contracts were scheduled to be terminated Wednesday.
"Five people were injured during the incident, all were employees of the factory. Three were discharged after hospital treatment, and two were admitted for further observation," a publicity official surnamed Liu of the Zhongtang town government, told China Daily.
"The city’s public security bureau is also investigating the attack on police vehicles," he said.
Xinhua contributed to the story

AT LEAST 2.7 million factory workers in southern China could lose their jobs as the global economic crisis hits demand for electronics, toys and clothes, according to industry estimates.
The region has seen massive export-driven expansion in recent years by supplying the world with cheap consumer goods, but rising production costs and falling US and European demand have marked a swift end to the boom.

Now 9,000 of the 45,000 factories in the cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan, and Shenzhen are expected to close before the Chinese New Year in late January, the Dongguan City Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment estimates.

By then, the association expects overseas demand for products from the three manufacturing hubs to have shrunk by 30 per cent, as the knock-on effects of the US housing market collapse and credit crunch filter down to Chinese workers.

’I am afraid it is not going to look good on the Chinese government if the decline of the export-led industries and the unemployment problem continue to worsen,’ Mr Eddie Leung, the association’s president told AFP.

Mr Leung, also a member of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, said the estimate of 2.7 million job losses was conservative, given that many of the larger factories in Guangdong province employ thousands of workers.

One of them, Hong Kong-listed Smart Union, a major toy manufacturer in Dongguan supplying US giants Mattel and Disney, closed its doors last week, leaving 7,000 workers out of work and with several weeks of back pay owed.

Clement Chan, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said a quarter of the 70,000 Hong Kong-owned companies in southern China, 17,500 businesses, could go to the wall by the end of January.

Describing the likelihood as a ’worst case scenario’, he said Hong Kong firms in the region employed a total of 10 million workers, but did not want to speculate on the extent of possible job losses.

While small and medium-sized factories are especially prone, the threat of lay offs looms just as large over the region’s manufacturing giants, further squeezed by the appreciation of the yuan.

Mr Harry To’s Mansfield Manufacturing is a classic example of the spectacular growth in China’s industrial heartland over the last three decades.

To started a metal business from a small room in Hong Kong in 1975. In 1991, he joined hundreds of other Hong Kong entrepreneurs moving their production across the border into China to take advantage of cheap labour and land.

He now employs 8,500 workers in 11 factories in China and Europe. His six factories in Dongguan cover 140,000 square metres.

Mr To’s company, which is now a subsidiary of Singapore-listed InnoTek supplies metal components for cars, plasma televisions, printers and other electrical appliances to Japanese brands including Canon, Toshiba, Epson, Minolta and Fuji-Xerox.

Business for the company, among the largest in its field in China, has grown by 40 per cent annually in recent years, but with credit being harder to come by, no manufacturer is safe, he said.

’With banks being so tight on their lending policies now, bringing down a factory overnight has now become very easy.’ All his expansion plans have had to be put on hold.

’Some of our long-time Japanese and European clients have asked us to stop producing for them in the next two to three weeks,’ he said.

’They said they did not want to have too much stock piled up in their warehouse as demand continues to dwindle.’

Mr To recently started building a new 70,000 square metre factory in Dongguan and was planning to hire 2,000 more workers later this year. But now, all work on the unfinished factory has stopped until more orders roll in.

’No one would expand their business when the prospects for the entire manufacturing industry look so grim,’ he said.

Instead of hiring more workers, Mr To is looking at cutting 1,000 employees across his operations.

But far from being downhearted, he is shifting part of the company’s export-led production to developing energy-saving electrical appliances for the domestic market, which he sees as weathering the current financial turmoil.

’In the long run, I am confident that mainland Chinese consumers’ purchasing power will keep rising as their Western counterparts continue to lose out.’ — AFP

200 workers in S. China city block highway for labor contract dispute


GUANGZHOU, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) —

About 200 workers of a smelting factory gathered and blocked a highway for about two hours in a south China city for labor contract dispute early Monday morning.

The employees with Shaoguan Smelting Factory in Shaoguan City, Guangdong Province, gathered at the factory’s gate at around 8:30 a.m. to protest that the factory refused to continue to sign the labor contracts as they expected. Their current labor contracts will terminate at the end of this year.

They said their interests would be much hurt if the factory refused to continue to sign the new contracts in the same way as the current ones. Most of the workers had been working in the plant for more than ten years.

The gathering blocked national highway 106 and halted traffic for two hours. They evacuated after the factory agreed to sign the new contracts in the way they expected.

China toy workers get improved payouts after violence

Thu Nov 27, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Hong Kong toy manufacturer has agreed to improve compensation terms for a batch of laid-off factory workers who clashed violently with police in south China over severance payouts, state media reported on Thursday.

Rising labour costs, falling export orders and a weak Christmas outlook have forced a growing number of Chinese toy factories to close or lay off workers, heightening the country’s social strain as the global financial crisis worsens.

A crowd of 500 workers overran nearly 1,000 police and stormed into the "Kaida" toy factory run by top Hong Kong toy manufacturer Kader Holdings in the latest sign of social strain in China’s industrial heartland of Guangdong province.

The workers overturned police vehicles, smashed windows and computer monitors in a dispute over compensation for laid-off workers in the industrial belt of Dongguan where thousands of factories have closed.

Hong Kong-listed Kader (0180.HK : Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), one of the city’s largest toymakers which counts industry goliaths like Hasbro among its clients, said in a statement that it regretted the incident but reaffirmed its financial structure was "sound and stable."

Kader, which employs around 8,000 people at the factory, laid off 380 workers last week and a further 216 contracts were due to be terminated on Wednesday, the China Daily said.

Kader said the 400 or so workers had been "compensated accordingly" under China’s Labour Law and rewarded staff who’d served more than five years with "extra bonuses."

The China Daily however quoted local official Li Zhihui as saying the company would "offer a new plan about giving economic compensation and bonuses to the employees whose contracts were terminated."

The newspaper didn’t clarify whether all contracts would be renewed or just those of "senior" employees.

Last month, about 1,000 workers protested outside another toy factory in Dongguan, demanding unpaid wages after the company shut its doors.

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom and James Pomfret in Hong Kong ; Editing by Nick Macfie) Keywords : CHINA TOY/


  • Striking workers at a plant supplying parts to Honda Motors’ China operations have issued a long list of demands for returning to work, aiming to win better conditions commensurate with China’s rising economic clout.

    Stoppages at foreign-run factories across China by workers demanding pay increases disrupted operations for several weeks in May and June. But the wave of unrest tapered off by the end of last month.

    The latest strike, which began on Monday when the plant operated by Atsumitec Co tried to fire 90 workers who were demanding better pay and work conditions, is the latest in a string of similar work stoppages in May and June across China.

    Among their demands, the workers are asking for Japanese management to apologise to Chinese workers for its conduct during the standoff, and to promise not to lay off any employees for the next two years.

  • They are also seeking an increase of about 500 yuan ($74) per month, from wages that currently total about 900 yuan.

    One worker said the two sides talked for about 20 minutes on Thursday morning, but that management failed to respond to their demands. No talks were set for Friday.

    On Friday morning, roughly half of the 200-person workforce was milling about the grounds of the plant, which makes car gear sticks in the south China city of Foshan.

    Three police cars were parked outside the plant at a distance monitoring the workers, but there were no conflicts.

    "We had no choice, the choice to strike," one line manager told Reuters. "Otherwise 90 workers would be fired. That would be too miserable."

    Atsumitec informed Honda that some production had resumed at the plant on Thursday evening, a Honda spokesman in Japan said. He added that the strike hasn’t had any impact on Honda’s China car-making operations.

    The factory supplies parts to Dongfeng Honda, a tie-up with Dongfeng Motor Group Co and Guangqi Honda, Honda’s joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile, a worker told Reuters.

    The strike marks the end of a couple of weeks of relative calm for foreign-run Chinese factories.

    The wave of current unrest hit a peak in June, but reports tapered off at the end of the month. The last reported stoppage, at Japanese-owned Tianjin Mitsumi Electric Co, ended on July 3.

    Labour costs in China have been rising, partly encouraged by a government that wants to turn farmers and workers into more confident consumers, even as it tries to keep a lid on strikes

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