[Documents menu] Documents menu

Message-ID: <199807061133.HAA13427@suntan.ccs.yorku.ca>
Date: Mon, 6 Jul 1998 12:35:40 +0100
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Jordi Martorell <socappeal@EASYNET.CO.UK>
Subject: Worker unrest in China

Worker unrest in China

By Heiko Khoo, Socialist Appeal, [6 July 1998]

With a population of 1.4 billion, including a mighty working class with a remarkable revolutionary tradition, China plays a central role in the world economy. Yet aside from the same garbage about an economic miracle we've seen crumble to dust in the rest of South East Asia, the media is deafeningly silent about the growing struggles of the Chinese workers against the effects of the attempts to move in the direction of capitalism.

In April a laid-off metal worker Yang, was fined for illegal street trading. Deprived of the means of living he burst into the district administration of industry and commerce in Fuzhou, grabbed two top officials and using petrol, set them all on fire, he died and one of the officials was badly burnt. Angry workers at the state owned Qingshan Department store in Wuhan, blocked key road intersections, on June 9th. They demanded an increase in shop worker wages from 350 yuan to 650 yuan a month, a lowering of managerial wages, and guarantees against victimisation. One demonstrator said, Most cadres are getting bonuses and using public assets for personal gain. Everyone in the leadership has purchased a home and is buying and selling stocks for profit. In contrast workers standing at the counter are unable to make a decent living after working hard day-in day-out.

Coal mines The Anyuan Coal Mine in Jiangxi Province is one of the most famous coal mines in China. In the 1920's Mao Zedong is said to have organised the workers there. In Mid- April laid-off workers from a local chemical fertiliser plant began to protest, holding high posters reading We Want Food and Work

After a meeting with them was rejected by city authorities, they blocked a passenger train and demanded the train carry them to Beijing to make the central authorities aware of their plight. The protestors were joined by laid off and retired workers from the Anyuan coal mines. After arresting 13 ringleaders the authorities agreed to make living expenses payments of 120 yuan a month. At the end of 1997 over 100,000 people were involved in violent clashes with armed Police units in four cities in the northern province of Heilongjiang. Strikes of workers and shopkeepers, beginning as petitions rapidly turned into near insurrectionary revolts. In Qiqihar the Train Locomotive and Compartment Manufacturing Plant and the United Timber Processing Plant demanded that the city party and government put an end to corruption and exploitation in their factories. On November 28th the party committee and city government, broadcast in defence of the management and warned workers not to follow hostile elements. The next day a strike which drew in seven other factories with 30,000 workers was declared. Workers burst into the managers office and the office of the party committee, demanding a statement itemising the plant's financial expenses. In Mudanjiang City elected representatives of 22,000 workers from seven state owned enterprises sent detailed demands on enterprise reform to the city and provincial authorities, including a ban on layoffs, the defence of the constitutional right to work, a fight against corruption under workers control, and that Worker Congresses, which until now have been powerless shells, be transformed into organs that supervise the government and the party. On December 1st some 15,000 workers besieged the Party HQ. After being denounced they sang revolutionary songs, We workers are powerful, and The Internationale

In Jiamusi, 30,000 workers protested against several months of non-payment of wages. They denounced the corruption and decadence of party and government cadres, blocked the roads, stormed the police station to secure the release of their comrades, stopped trains and took over the airport.

At the rallies their banners read, All power and property belong to the people Strike down power, economic, and political exploitation and oppression.

In all these cases, armed police repressed the protests, but only after heavy clashes, which included shootouts with armed workers. The fact that the protests occurred simultaneously indicates that a generalised revolt of this character is likely