Message-ID: <>
Date: Fri, 2 Jul 1999 21:15:48 +0800
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
From: Gerard Greenfield <gjg@PACIFIC.NET.HK>
Subject: China: 2,000 Riot Police Attack Peaceful Demonstration in Anhui

2,000 Riot Police Attack Peaceful Demonstration in Anhui

China Labour Bulletin, press release, 2 July 1999

Since June 28, Huainan city, Anhui Province has been the site of a sit-in demonstration by over 2,000 workers from the Anhui Paper Manufacturing Factory. The workers gathered on Huainan's main Route 206 to protest against the factory's closure and demand that the government return to them the money they had previously been forced to invest in the company via a compulsory share-purchase scheme. They are also demanding livelihood guarantees from the local authorities.

During 1998, the factory underwent a restructuring that included shareholderisation, a CCP euphemism for privatisation. Each employee was required to buy shares worth a minimum of Rmb 3,000 or faced being laid off and losing all statutory employment rights and benefits. Faced with this impossible situation, workers had no choice but to use personal savings to buy shares.

Huainan's current mayor and one of the city's deputy mayors were both former directors of the Anhui Paper Manufacturing Factory. Many employees believe their current predicament is directly related to these two officials. They are insisting that the two come forward and negotiate with the workforce. However throughout the five-day protest, the local government has refused to talk to the workers and failed to respond to their demands.

Yesterday afternoon (July 1), 500 workers from the Huainan Electronics Factory responded to a call for support from workers at the Anhui Paper Manufacturing Factory and joined the sit-in on Route 206. From the gates of the paper factory, the sit-in stretched back over 500 metres along Route 206. Banners were hung saying Protect Livelihood Rights, Return the Share-purchase Funds, Restore Production etc.

Since the start of the sit-in, the protesters have surrounded the factory director and factory party secretary who came out to talk to the workers. On the evening of June 29, the mayor of Huainan dispatched over 200 riot police to try to force the release of the two factory bosses but they were outnumbered by the workers. At 4 a.m. this morning (July 2), over 2,000 armed riot police returned to the scene of the sit-in and violently attacked the peaceful protest. Many employees were injured in the process of forcing the workers to disperse and release the factory directors.

Later this morning, outraged workers marched through the streets to voice their anger at the police violence. According to eyewitnesses at the scene, at least 5,000 workers have now joined the march which is continuously expanding as workers from nearby factories express their solidarity. The demonstrators slogans include: Down with Corruption, Give Us Back Our Factory, We want to Eat, We Demand a Livelihood. Passersby are also agreeing with the anti-corruption denunciations and expressing support for the marchers.

For the past week, workers at the Anhui Paper Manufacturing Factory have peacefully tried to uphold their right to a livelihood and protect the future of their factory. The response of the local government has been to first ignore them, then refuse to meet with them and finally to send in armed riot police, causing many needless injuries and provoking widespread outrage among the city's workers.

China Labour Bulletin strongly demands that the Huainan government authorities:

1. Respond immediately and peacefully to the workers requests and cease neglecting their responsibilities by avoiding the issue;

2. Report the problem to the central government and stop trying to hoodwink both the workers and the central authorities;

3. Calm public anger and publicly apologise to those workers who have been injured by the riot police and provide full compensation.

China Labour Bulletin demands that the Central Government:

1. Investigate and prosecute the local officials who gave the order to use violence against the workers;

2. Begin a legal investigation into the honesty and transparency of those Huainan government officials who have provoked such public dissatisfaction;

3. Carry out an urgent review of the restructuring of state-owned industry. The livelihood rights of Chinese workers must be protected and upheld during the restructuring process;

4. In dealing with this or future working class protests, the government must allow workers the right to organise their own trade unions and elect their own representatives. This will facillitate the opening up of channels to deal with and alleviate social tensions and avoid or lessen the frequency of street-clashes;

5. In opening up such channels of communication, the central government must take steps to reassure working people that organising their own democratic trade unions will not lead to repercussions and victimisation. The government must dispel the general climate of fear as well as relax its political stranglehold over the official All China Federation of Trade Unions and encourage working people to actively take part in trade unions, trade union elections and negotiations.

If we look at the pattern of local protests by workers all over China over the past year, there is every likelihood that the government can avoid future large-scale protests by relaxing its iron-fist methods of control. On the other hand, should the government continue to use force against peaceful working class protests, in order to protect the interests of corrupt officials, it will drag China into a period of chaos in which the Chinese Communist Party will have no hope of retaining its grip on power.

Han Dongfang