[Marxism] Violent Protest Erupts at Chinese Toy Factory

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Thu Jul 27 14:05:16 MDT 2006

Violent Protest Erupts at Chinese Toy Factory 
Published: July 27, 2006
BEIJING, July 27 — A violent protest erupted last weekend at a factory in 
southern China that makes toys for McDonald’s, Disney and other Western 
companies, as workers became so unruly that local police were called to the scene to 
restore order.
Word of the incident spread today when China Labor Watch, a New York-based 
labor rights group, issued a news release describing a riot by more than 1,000 
workers at the Hengli factory in the industrial city of Dongguan, who were 
protesting low pay and poor living conditions. 
By contrast, factory officials said the unrest was not about wages or 
conditions at all, but instead was sparked by a disgruntled worker, according to a 
distributor of the factory’s products.
Efforts this evening to contact people who work at the factory were 
unsuccessful. A police officer in Dongguan confirmed by telephone that officers were 
summoned to the factory, but he refused to describe what happened.
One description of the incident was posted at Tianya Club, a popular forum on 
the Chinese Internet. The anonymous writer described a violent clash between 
workers and security guards that spilled out of two dormitories. Workers 
opened fire hydrants to push back the guards, the writer continued. Cars were 
overturned and computers were smashed until the riot police finally took control of 
the factory.
The factory is owned by the Merton Company, based in Hong Kong, which 
manufactures promotional toys and other products. Merton’s Web site lists Disney and 
McDonald’s among its customers. China Labor Watch said it was told by workers 
that roughly half of the toys made at the factory are supplied to McDonald’s, 
presumably to be included in Happy Meal packages marketed to children. 
Lisa Howard, director of corporate communications for McDonald’s, said her 
company buys toys from the factory through an American distributor, Creata 
Promotions. Ms. Howard said Creata was looking into the factory incident. 
“We need to get more of the facts,” Ms. Howard said. “We want a full 
investigation, and Creata has committed to that.”
Michael Lillioja, executive director of Creata, confirmed by e-mail that an 
investigation was underway. His company issued a statement saying that the 
incident “was not a wage or hour issue,” and quoted factory officials as saying 
that a “disgruntled employee who was terminated” was responsible.
“Apparently,” the statement said, “that termination led to some of the 
employee’s friends causing acts of vandalism at the plant, which required local 
police to respond. We understand that arrests were made, and that the local 
authorities responded appropriately.”
Merton officials in Hong Kong could not be reached for comment.
Members of the China Labor Watch staff said that eyewitnesses described the 
protests to the group’s executive director, Li Qiang, over the telephone. The 
group has been investigating Merton at least since 2001, when it issued a 
report critical of the company’s labor policies.
In the statement released today, China Labor Watch said the protests happened 
on Saturday and Sunday. Dozens of workers were arrested, and many others were 
injured, the group said.
It said that workers at Merton’s plants often work 11 hours a day, 6 days a 
week, with up to 70 hours a month in overtime on top of that. The rights group 
accused the factory of violating a number of Chinese labor laws, including 
provisions that limit overtime to 36 hours a month. Workers at the plant are paid 
$71.75 a month, the minimum wage in Dongguan, but they must return 
one-quarter of their earnings to the company for room and board, the rights group said.
“Tragedies such as the Merton riot were a result of the misguided social 
policy that overemphasizes economic growth and neglects labor rights,” Mr. Li said 
in a written statement.

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