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Date: Sat, 2 Mar 1996 06:54:00 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
Subject: Industrial Hazards Raging in China
/** labr.global: 206.0 **/
** Topic: CHINA: Industrial Hazards Raging in China **
** Written 10:17 AM Feb 27, 1996 by or@iohk.com in cdp:labr.global **
From: October Review <or@iohk.com>
Subject: CHINA: Industrial Hazards Raging in China

Industrial Hazards Raging in China

By Zhang Kai, October Review, Vol.23 no.1, 12 February 1996

On 10 December 1995, the Workers' Daily published an article Workers appeal for legislation over protection of labour which discussed the following situation:

A survey conducted by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions revealed that in recent years, over 90,000 people every year have died as a result of industrial, traffic and fire accidents, with a direct economic loss of several billion yuan. Industrial hazards in coal mines, construction, metallurgy, chemical fertilizer industry, fuel and mechanics have not decreased. Among coal mine hazards, half occurred in state owned coal mines. Gas explosions have been rather serious in provinces such as Guizhou. Despite the State Council regulation that enterprises should apply 10-20% of the fund for technological renewal in the area of improvement of labour conditions, few enterprises implement this. Lately this has even been removed from the accounting system. The danger of industrial hazards is more potent.

In the last decade, with polluting industries being subject to further control in advanced countries, many have moved into China. The situation is serious in Special Economic Zones (SEZ). According to a sample survey of 7 foreign capital owned factories in the Zhuhai SEZ in the latter half of 1994, benzene-toluene-xylene in the air was 8-10 times above state standards. In the Shenzhen SEZ, a health check-up conducted by the Baoan County health authorities on 2,000 women workers who were in frequent contact with triphenylmethane found that over 350 had their haemochrome below the low standard levels.

For six months in the spring and summer of 1994, an investigation team composed of health experts in Shenzhen conducted a general survey on all state-owned, collective, rural, foreign owned and individual enterprises and found that most enterprises operated with serious vices or poison. 29% of enterprises in the Shenzhen city area and 62.5% of enterprises in the Baoan and Longgang districts had either serious vices or poisoning or specially dangerous equipment. (Ming Pao, 28 Oct 1994)

Similar conditions prevail in the Fujian Province. Ming Pao, Jan 18-19, 1996, reported that in shoe factories in Putian, Quanzhou, Shishi and Jinjiang, triphenylmethane-polluted air puts 230,000 women workers at risk, and the lives of several million residents in these districts are also threatened by the polluted air evicted from the factories. In the Xianyou County hospital, since 1993, over 10 women workers from shoe factories have been diagnosed with leukemia, and over 20 with critical aplastic anemia; two women workers had died soon after admission into the hospital.

It is reported that in a shoe factory, a set of cleansing facilities costs RMB 560,000 yuan (around US$67,000) which would amount to an additional cost of 0.4 yuan per pair of shoes manufactured, and yet most factories refuse to install such facilities. For instance, the Taiwanese Factory Owners Association even threatened to move out their factories if they were forced to install such facilities. The drive for lowering production costs and increasing competitiveness has caused investors to disregard the health and safety of workers.

Fire hazards remain a serious threat to workers' lives, since most factories have their workplace, workers' dormitory and storehouse in the same building. After the notorious fire in the Zhili Toy Factory in Shenzhen in 1993 with 87 workers burnt to death, 61 workers died in a fire in the Gaofu Textile Factory in Fuzhou, 93 died in a fire in Yushan Textile Factory in Zhuhai in June 1994, and in September 1995, another 22 died in a rural factory in Shunde Township in Guangdong Province.