Hundreds of Workers Clash With Police in Southern China

AFP, 17 January 2001

BEIJING, Jan 17, 2001—(Agence France Presse) Up to 1,000 workers clashed with police in southern China's Guizhou province in a dispute over unemployment compensation in a local state-run textile factory, a Hong Kong-based rights group said Wednesday.

Workers of the Guiyang Cotton Textile Plant in the provincial capital of Guiyang, clashed with police last Friday after the factory announced that some 1,500 workers would be laid off, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

The workers began to gather at the factory gates with the protests gathering momentum after it was revealed that those laid off would only receive a severance package of 5,000 yuan (600 dollars), the center said.

Fearing that the protesters would march on the nearby railway station and block the tracks, the government called in some 200 police who attempted to persuade the workers to return to the factory.

Some 10 workers hospitalized with injuries and one worker was injured seriously, the center said.

Officials at the factory refused to comment on the incident when contacted by phone, but local government officials said the incident did occur, but that the protests ended peacefully.

Guiyang's top leaders immediately went to the factory and peacefully resolved the issue, the official said, without elaboration.

Chinese workers facing huge lay offs from haemorrhaging state-run factories during last several years have become increasingly restless around the annual Chinese Lunar New Year which this year falls on January 24 as annual bonuses have been cut or news of layoffs announced.

Just after last year's Lunar New Year holiday some 20,000 laid off miners in northeast China clashed with police and blocked roads near the town of Yangjiazhan for three days.

At that time reports said cars were set on fire, windows were smashed and burning barricades set up by miners and their families who were furious at low redundancy payments and corruption by mine officials.