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2,000 Riot Police Attack Peaceful Demonstration in Anhui
July 2, 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" and "Down with Yang
Ai Guang [the city mayor -- Ed]" . 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:
- Respond immediately and peacefully to the workers requests and cease
neglecting their responsibilities by avoiding the issue;
- Report the problem to the central government and stop trying to hoodwink
both the workers and the central authorities;
- 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:
- Investigate and prosecute the local officials who gave the order to
use violence against the workers;
- Begin a legal investigation into the honesty and transparency of
those Huainan government officials who have provoked such public dissatisfaction;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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
Chief Editor, CLB