Days after thousands of workers in Liaoyang, Liaoning province and Guangyuan, Sichuan province staged strikes and street demonstrations against retrenchment and non-provision of social insurance, the government moved in para-military troops to stop the workers' actions. Leaders of the demonstrations were arrested.
About 5,000 workers, mainly from Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Factory began a demonstration on 11 March, 2002. The number swelled to 30,000, protesting against the police detention of several organizers. Most of the protesters were put off after the police crackdown of 20 March, but according to various news agency reports, several hundred workers still continued to stage demonstrations to demand the release of their detained colleagues up to the end of March.
Yao Fuxin, a 54-year-old laid off worker from Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Factory, has been secretly detained since 17 March. The police first denied knowledge of his detention; and only confirmed his arrest on 21 March. According to AFP (28 March), Yao's family were deeply concerned about Yao's health and even feared for his life after the police told them that Yao had been treated for "heart problems". Yao's family said that Yao had no health problems prior to his arrest.
Other leaders of the Liaoyang demonstrations were arrested by the police on 20 March. They included: Pang Qingxiang, Xiao Yunliang and Wang Zhaoming.
AFP (20 March) reported that Yao Fuxin's daughter, Yao Dan, said she saw the People's Liberation Army soldiers and the police used force to evict demonstrators outside the city government offices. Yao said the government refused to negotiate with the demonstrators over their demands for the release of their leaders; and that the police accused them of "trying to cause social instability" and "illegally linking with foreigners and others".
According to the Washington Post (20 March), the latest demonstrations in Liaoyang mark at least the fifth large-scale workers protests in years. The report also said that employees of the Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Factory had been at the centre of these protests.
The Washington Post (22 March) reported that most of the protesters decided to stop their demonstrations after the para-military deployment and the further arrests. The workers also felt a little pacified by government promise to pay their back wages and severance pay arrears and pledges to help the laid-off workers find jobs. The local party committee also reportedly promised to investigate the protesters' charge of corruption against the Ferro-Alloy Factory and government officials.
The police moved in to smash the picket line at the Guangyuan Textile Factory on 18 March, 2002 and detained about a dozen strikers. No further news had been received about the detainees.
(Source: AFP, BBC, Reuters, Washington Post)