Henan Workers Block Road Demanding Government Intervention in Housing Dispute

27 June 2019

(Broadcast on 2002-01-03)

On the morning of January 3rd 2002, between 30 and 40 workers from the Luoyang Electromechanical Equipment Company blocked the Zhongzhou Road in Luoyang City. A listener telephoned us from a public phone within two hundred metres of the protest. He described the scene and the reasons behind the workers' protest.

Listener:

They are all from the Luoyang Electromechanical Equipment Company. They purchased company housing from the employer seven years back. The company has since shut down, due to poor management, and auctioned off the housing [that the workers had bought -Ed]. The result was forced removal of the workers and subsequent demolition of the housing block.

Han Dongfang (Han):

Are they going to demolish the block and then build new housing on the site?

Listener:

Other people have already bought the plots and the occupants have to go. I am not sure if the demolition has already gone ahead, but whatever happens they do not want the workers living there.

Han:

What's happening right now?

Listener:

There are a lot of people around the protesting workers in Zhongzhou Road. The workers are telling everyone why they are blocking up the road. They are saying that if the houses are demolished, then fine - we won't go to the government, we'll block the roads instead and the government will come to us! They've put up iron girders and old iron doors propped up with rods at the side of the road. People are milling around watching.

Han:

How far are you from the scene?

Listener:

Two hundred metres.

Han:

Can you see what's going on?

Listener:

Yes.

Han:

Have they got any banners or placards?

Listener:

No. They are just blocking up the road.

Han:

And how many people are taking part in the protest?

Listener:

About 30 or 40 people, all of them are residents from the block.

Han:

All from the equipment factory?

Listener:

Yes, that's right.

Han:

And how many bystanders are there at the scene?

Listener:

More than 300 people!

Han:

When did the protest start?

Listener:

I can't say for sure, I was just walking past and saw it going on.

Han:

It's 9.20 in the morning right now.

Listener:

They have certainly got started this morning then.

Han:

Have you talked to the workers?

Listener:

I have asked them a few questions. They say the houses have been demolished and the whole thing has become very unreasonable. No one will talk reason to them so they've blocked the road. The people looking on are saying ' yes you guys are right, block the road!' That's how most passers-by are reacting.

I telephoned the Luoyang Public Security Bureau (PSB) [the police - Ed.] at Xigong district and spoke to a duty officer.

PSB:

I am sorry, I am not authorised to give telephone interviews.

Han:

What?

PSB:

I'm sorry, I can't accept telephone interviews.

Han:

Is the traffic down there moving freely again?

PSB:

Yes. It's fine now.

Han:

What time did it start moving again?

PSB:

Er…We had it moving by about nine o'clock…vehicles were moving before that in fact.

Han:

We got a call at about nine thirty telling us the road was still blocked.

PSB:

Half past nine?

Han:

Sure.

PSB:

Discussions with their representatives were already underway by then. People hadn't dispersed but the traffic was moving.

Han:

The traffic was moving but people were still at the scene?

PSB:

That's right. There were government people down there talking to them and the people had already allowed the road to be opened up again. The traffic build-up had been cleared.

Han:

How was the problem solved?

PSB:

I can't say over the phone. There are rules governing any interviews we give to journalists.

Han:

Can you tell me whom to call to get a fuller picture? Should I try the city government?

PSB:

You could try them.

Han:

Is anyone from the government at the scene?

PSB:

Er…I am not sure if anyone from the government has gone to the scene.

Han:

Well whom were the representatives talking to?

PSB:

I'd say they would be relevant leaders from the government.

Han:

PSB:

I can't say for sure right now.

I rang the city government but the officials were still on [New Year—Ed.] holiday. A duty officer who answered the phone told me what they knew.

City Government:

The PSB Control Centre reported this situation to the city government and party committee and we are making a detailed report to the mayor…the duty mayor. According to the mayor's instructions, the PSB have…they have already got the traffic moving and have talked to the Goods and Materials (Group) Company which manages the electromechanical equipment factory. They sent a senior manager to the scene and it's all sorted out now.

Han:

The Goods and Materials (Group) Company?

City Government:

The Goods and Materials (Group) Company.

Han:

How was it sorted out?

City Government:

Well I think we will have to wait for the government officers to come back to work and make a report. It's a holiday right now and the city government departments are all operating on a skeleton staff. The administrative staff on duty right now is just making daily reports to cover the holiday period. I am afraid the mayor can only deal with it tomorrow when the government officers are formally back at work.

Han:

What?

City Government:

Mayor Guo. Guo Chongying - he'll most likely deal with it.

After something of a wild goose chase, I finally got through to the Assistant General Manager at the Luoyang Goods and Materials (Group) Company. He told me that this affair had already been settled.

Assistant General Manager:

It's all over already. Finished. Dealt with.

Han:

Can you be a bit more specific?

Assistant General Manager:

Er…Government leaders at city and district level have all been involved. It's solved.

Han:

Exactly what kind of solution was reached?

Assistant General Manager:

The workers have gone home. It was nothing.

Han:

They've gone home, but has a solution been found as to why they blocked the road in the first place?

Assistant General Manager:

I can talk about that in detail later on. Right now I am preparing a report for district leaders. Is that alright?

Han:

Fine, OK.

I called him back later that afternoon. He told me that the workers hadn't bought the houses in the first place. After a while he said that they had bought the houses but the company had later given the workers their money back. Several private firms had subsequently sued the company and the company had lost the case. Then he said that the firms were making trouble for no reason.

Assistant General Manager:

There is no real problem. It's just that these private firms took us to court while we were in the middle of it all [sorting out the workers housing - Ed]. But there were a lot of things in the case that didn't tally with the facts.

Han:

The company lost the court case right?

Assistant General Manager:

Er…Yes that's right.

Han:

So on what basis could they demolish the housing?

Assistant General Manager:

They [the private firms] said that the court was investigating this and that and not making anything clear. They took illegal action and came to our offices smashing doors and harassing the staff. You need to go to the court to get their explanation.

Han:

Has a formal judgement been made?

Assistant General Manager:

What judgement?

Han:

The court judgement.


Assistant General Manager:

I am not sure. That's the legal office's territory.

Han:

Legal Office?

Assistant General Manager:

Yes.

Han:

Are they at work today?

Assistant General Manager:

I don't know.

Han:

What was the court case really about then?

Assistant General Manager:

They made false accusations against us. That had no basis in fact.

Han:

But didn’t the workers originally buy the houses?

Assistant General Manager:

No.

Han:

So why are they saying they handed over money for the houses seven years ago?

Assistant General Manager:

They were given a full refund.

Han:

When?

Assistant General Manager:

I don't know. I am new in this company. I can't tell you much about these historical questions.

Han:

Well who is going to sort them out?

Assistant General Manager:

Clearly I will have to.

Han:

What are you preparing to do about it?

Assistant General Manager:

Just get on with my work and stop the workers going to the streets and causing trouble!

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