Protesters demand freedom for leaders

From Jonathan Lassen <>
Date Sat, 8 Oct 2005 09:48:47 -0400
Domainkey-signature a=rsa-sha1; q=dns; c=nofws; s=beta;; h=received:message-id:date:from:reply-to:to:subject:mime-version:content-type:content-transfer-encoding:content-disposition; b=MEx9UI88UzQEeETJ1optlpY/Q093tik0DfvO2ba8m89h8HoFbkOAKCY7+DoFF9bcNYwxG50SPUph5hPHniaVJMEEUxXMwSSBR+5pPiVkKADR4JsXPzbUnU1TJWVZAl/PnxJIVIt4P+4uu7ZgBr6/cxitxIudUNZcWgaPXcrRf7I=

-- The protest in front of the city government was later broken up,
and more arrests were made. The workers then went back to protesting
at the road in front of the steel plant, and apparently a very large
police force broke up the road blockade. Many workers were injured,
and the overseas Chinese press and RFA are reporting that 2 workers
died during the raid. Dunno if it's true or not. This appears to be
the first and only original report in English.

Protesters demand freedom for leaders
SCMP | 7 oct
by Minnie Chan

Workers laid off by a steel plant in Chongqing continued a sit-in
outside the municipal government headquarters yesterday to protest
over the detention of eight of their leaders and the closure of the

One woman protester said they would not leave until their leaders had
been released.

"Many workers, including elderly people and women, are now kneeling
down in front of the police office asking them to free the leaders,"
the woman worker said last night, adding that she would return and
join the sit-in this morning.

"We are protesting peacefully but the authorities have deployed over
1,000 policemen to drive us away and take away our leaders."

The mass protests began in August after laid-off workers at the
Chongqing Special Steel Plant claimed they had been told to stand down
without compensation.

The steel plant, formerly one of the mainland's top steel producers,
had employed more than 18,000 people at its peak. But in July, the
company declared bankruptcy after incurring debts of more than 4
billion yuan.

On August 12 more than 2,000 laid-off workers reportedly occupied one
of the main roads in the city, paralysing traffic. The protesters
backed off about a week later when Chongqing officials said they would
hold negotiations with the workers.

However, the negotiations failed to yield a result and the workers
resumed the protest last Tuesday. They claimed the factory was still
refusing to pay each worker the 2,000 yuan in severance payment they
were demanding.

A 41-year-old woman alleged corrupt senior managers were to blame for
the factory's failure.

"These cadres spent 50 per cent of the company's revenue on their
salaries and welfare," she said, adding that her family had worked for
the factory for more than 50 years.

"We all joined the company when we were kids but now we've got nothing
at the end."

The protest in Chongqing echoed a similar protest in Liaoyang ,
Liaoning province , three years ago. Authorities there arrested the
leaders and sentenced them to lengthy jail terms.

The communist authorities are particularly concerned about protests at
big factories and mines.

Liu Xutao, a political scientist with the State School of
Administration, said that workers had been sacrificed as Beijing
embarked on economic reforms, because they were never really the
"masters" of the society.

"Workers are the 'masters of our country' is just a political slogan
used since 1949. It has never been implemented in the political
system," Professor Liu said.

He said that with the lack of unions similar protests would occur
again because they are the only way for workers to struggle against