Arrests Threaten 10,000 Laid-off Protesters in Liaoyang

According to a Voice of America report, over 10,000 retrenched workers staged mass demonstrations in the capital city of Liaoning Province, Liaoyang, for two days on 11-12 March, 2002. Most of the workers were from the Liaoyang Ferrous Alloy Factory. Large numbers of plain clothes detectives were dispatched to keep a close watch on the organizers. At the end of the first day of their demonstrations, several organizers were given warning notices by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) about unlawful activities.

On the morning of 12 March, the workers marched to the Liaoyang municipal government headquarters and surrounded the building to demand a meeting with leading officials. The workers demanded the city government to:

  • solve the problems of livelihood faced by the retrenched workers;
  • bring to justice the corrupt leaders of the Iron and Metal Factory; and
  • stop the Public Security Bureau police from arresting workers' representatives.

In the afternoon, the city government finally agreed to meet with the protesters' representatives. Mr Pang and 12 other workers' representatives met with the party committee's deputy general secretary, deputy mayors, the general secretary of the government and legislative committee, the chief justice, the procurator-general and the head of the PSB of Liaoyang. Workers were told that the other leading officials of the government were attending the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing. The workers were assured that no arrest would be made. But they were a little disappointed with the lack of a concrete pledge of solutions to their other demands. The city's leading officials promised that further meetings would be held with the representatives when their top leaders returned to the office.

There has been a news blackout in China's official media about the protest action.

Liaoning is one of the improverished northeastern provinces in which workers have suffered from mass retrenchment as a result of the re-structuring and closures of large number of loss-making state-owned enterprises (SOE) in recent years. According to the China Daily (12 March), during the ongoing annual session of the Ninth NPC, president Jiang Zemin, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, told the deputies from Liaoning that "the province must rely closely on the working class and the broad masses of the people in promoting SOE reform and development and the revitalization of the old industrial base, giving full play to their initiative, enthusiasm and creativity."

(Source: Voice of America, China Daily)


Online: 2002-03-16

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