Chinese workers barricade factory to "protect the state investment"
rfidler at cyberus.ca
Mon May 12 10:24:43 MDT 2003
Rising tide of labour protest has Chinese leadership worried
By GEOFFREY YORK
DATONG, CHINA -- The factory workers formed a human barricade outside
the headquarters of Datong's city government, blocking the three-lane
highway with their bodies and their bicycles.
"We want to survive," their banner read. "We want to eat. We want to
protect the state investment. We want to protect the legal rights of the
Suddenly, dozens of policemen swooped in and pounced on the angry
protesters, grabbing their banner and trying to tug it away from them.
"Let go of it! Go away!" the police yelled.
The workers shouted and fought back. They tried sitting on the banner,
but the police were too strong. There was a tug-of-war. Soon, the banner
was gone -- but the workers remained on the street, vowing to keep
fighting for their rights.
The confrontation, which took place Friday, was the third day of a
protest by about 100 workers from a state-owned drug factory that was
shut down in 1999. They alleged that corrupt managers and city officials
pocketed the proceeds from the sale of the factory, leaving them with
neither jobs nor compensation.
"The government wants to maintain stability, but we will not let them
have their stability unless they give us our rights," said one worker
who helped to organize the Datong protest.
By itself, the protest was small. Yet it was part of a growing trend of
labour activism that has alarmed China's rulers, prompting a
heavy-handed crackdown on protest leaders in recent months.
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