[Marxism] Violent Protest Erupts at Chinese Toy Factory
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Dbachmozart at aol.com
Thu Jul 27 14:05:16 MDT 2006
Violent Protest Erupts at Chinese Toy Factory
By JIM YARDLEY
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
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 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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