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Hundreds of former bank employees protest over redundancies

More than 200 laid-off employees from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) staged a sit-in protest in central Beijing this week, demanding their jobs back and protesting against the inadequate redundancy compensation they received. Most of those protesting had been laid off by the bank, China's largest lender, four years ago.

One protestor told reporters of the Agence France-presse: "We want our jobs back...We have to survive. They can't leave us to die like this." The protestor, surnamed Zou, said he had worked for the bank for 14 years but was only receiving 2,500 yuan (US$313) a year from a redundancy settlement plan and had no other source of income, no pension or medical insurance payments.

The protestors staged their protest outside of the offices of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) in Beijing while policemen in 20 vans and cars looked on from streets outside the official trade union on 19 July. Another 100 police officers were also standing by. Some police officers prevented bystanders from talking to the protestors, according to AFP.

Another former employee surnamed Wang, who used to be a bank branch manager in Jiangsu province in eastern China, said they had been petitioning various government departments and the ACFTU for the past four years but with few results.

Wang said hundreds of other redundant employees who arrived in Beijing by train from other parts of China had been prevented by police from leaving the train stations.

Protestors said that one of their fellow demonstrators had been beaten by the police earlier this week and suffered from internal bleeding and was hospitalized.

There is no independent trade union in China and all local trade unions have to be affiliated to the AFTCU, which is controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

The protestors complained that the official trade union had been ineffective in fighting for their rights. "They should be the workers' voice, but they are not even listening to us.  They have never given us an answer on anything," Zou said. "We have no one to complain to."

China's banking regulators on 18 July approved an application by the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to seek a stock market listing, in which the bank hopes to raise a record US$ 19 billion, according to reports.

The number of "public order disturbances" throughout China rose by 6.6 percent to 87,000 last year, according to official statistics.

Sources: Agence France-presse (19 July 2006), TodayOnline.com (19 July 2006)

21 July 2006