Wuhan Cotton Mill Pensioners Demonstrate for Pensions

27 June 2019

(Broadcast on September 28, 2001)

Retired workers from the Dongxihu Cotton Mill in Wuhan city, Hubei Province, hit the streets for two consecutive days on September 25th and 26th, 2001. They demanded that the government clearly explain why pension subsidies hadn't been paid and why social insurance funds had disappeared. On September 25th, the retired workers marched from the riverside in Dongxihu district down Jiefang Road to the edge of Hankouqiaokou district, going through three lines of police who tried to block their way at Wujiashan. The police finally used force to disperse the workers. An unknown number of people were hurt during the skirmish and seven organisers were arrested and detained until midnight. I telephoned the Hubei provincial government and the Wuhan city government, but both denied that the incident had taken place.

Provincial Government:

I am not too sure about this situation and we haven’t received any information on their petition. If there were as many as 1,000 people involved, we would definitely have to report it to the State Council.

Han:

There was a clash with the police when they got to Wujiashan and lots of the retired workers were hurt.

Provincial Government:

We’ve no way of verifying that for you. But if this incident really did take place, they would definitely have come here to the provincial government… you needn’t believe this kind of talk, OK?

I got the same denial when I telephoned the Wuhan city government:

City Government:

We are not clear on this. I don’t know anything about it! How many people did you say? Maybe there was a petition, but not with so many people involved.

Han:

There were up to 1,000 people in a collective petition. Surely something so big…

City Government:

No way could something on that kind of scale have taken place. No way at all. I haven’t seen a petition on that scale.

Han:

Well was there anything smaller, say five, six, 700 people?

City Government:

No.

Han:

How many then?

City Government:

Something around 100.

Finally, I found the telephone number of the Dongxihu Cotton Mill and got hold of the factory’s trade union chairperson. He confirmed that 600 retired workers had organised a street demonstration and petition.

Chairperson:

Last Tuesday, on the 11th, over 40 retired workers came to the factory to see me. I told them that no one would dare touch the government’s pension fund subsidies. Basically they didn’t believe me.

Han:

So what happened in the end?

Chairperson:

They said they would go to the government.

Han:

And therefore demonstrate?

Chairperson:

Yes. It started on the 25th and went on for two days, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Han:

How many people took part on the first day?

Chairperson:

Between three and four hundred.

Han:

And on Wednesday?

Chairperson:

About 600 on the next day.

Han:

About twice the number?

Chairperson:

That’s right.

Han:

How many retired workers does the factory have on the books?

Chairperson:

Around 2,400.

The trade union chairperson also confirmed that some retired workers had been injured in the clash with police and that one person was still in hospital waiting for an operation.

Chairperson:

That was on the 25th I think. After they got to Qiaokou, the police surrounded them and wouldn’t let them block up the main road. But the 400-odd workers were set to move on, and the police set up three [separate] police lines. The first line told them that they were breaking the law by blocking traffic, holding this kind of demonstration and carrying placards. Then the first line linked arms and fanned out across the road, not letting them pass. So they forced their way through this line and the next. When they tried to push through the third line of police, some of them were dragged off to police vans. That was how it happened. Some people had their legs injured when they were knocked to the ground in the scuffle.

Han:

You say this happened at Qiaokou?

Chairperson:

On Jiefang main street, where Gutian One road meets Gutian Two.

Han:

So that’s already in Hankou?

Chairperson:

Yes, Hankou, that’s correct.

Han:

Well does that count as blocking up the traffic?

Chairperson:

Sure. It was blocked for more than an hour.

Han:

The whole of Hankou traffic was paralysed?

Chairperson:

Yes. You can imagine what it was like.

Han:

What about the injured workers. Are they still in hospital?

Chairperson:

One guy is still in hospital. They need to operate on his leg.

The Chairperson also said that during the demonstration which included banners etc., seven organisers were arrested.

Chairperson:

Yes. Seven were arrested and dealt with. They were released after 11pm that night. At one in the morning, the government sent people to meet them and bring them home.

Han:

How many people were arrested?

Chairperson:

Five I think. Then two were arrested later… these last two directed the whole thing, calling for the demonstrators to charge forward.

Han:

Are they all released now?

Chairperson:

They were all released that same night. Their petition was illegal.

Han:

Which government rules did they violate?

Chairperson:

Illegal demonstration and hoisting of banners.

Han:

What did the banners say?

Chairperson:

“Our life-supporting pension has been cut by the villains, you will see”. Also, “we want the right to work” and “don’t put anything under the care of this evil government”.

Han:

By what criteria is a demonstration deemed illegal?

Chairperson:

I don’t know. It was decided in a meeting. Nothing was made public.

Han:

An internal meeting?

Chairperson:

Yes.

During the repression of the demonstration, top officials from all relevant departments of the Dongxihu district government went to the cotton mill and promised all the retired workers and worker representatives that not one penny of the pensions would be reduced. This was clearly an attempt to calm the situation, temporarily.

Chairperson:

In the end, they set up a special work team to go to the factory. The work team included officials from the departments of labour, civil affairs, the court, economic committee, district party committee, district government, district planning committee, district control commission. They all came here to answer workers’s questions. Ten workers’ representatives were there and passed on the details of the discussions to the rest of the workers. The leader of the factory’s job placement committee was also there.This business has already been settled after talking with the workers.

Back to Top

This website uses cookies that collect information about your computer.

Please see CLB's privacy policy to understand exactly what data is collected from our website visitors and newsletter subscribers, how it is used and how to contact us if you have any concerns over the use of your data.