Daqing Oilfield Workers’ Struggle (1)

27 June 2019

(Broadcast on 5 March, 2002)

On 1 March, about 3,000 employees of Daqing Petroleum Administration Bureau (DPAB) marched into the Bureau's headquarters to protest against the management's unilateral breach of their retrenchment contracts. By 4 March , the number of protesters has risen to over 50,000. An eyewitness' account is given below about the demonstrations which take place this morning.

Eyewitness:

A curfew was imposed for a while. It was alright later on. The workers marched ahead, and the riot police cleared the way for them.

Han Dongfang (Han):

How many workers were there?

Eyewitness :

About 10,000 to 20,000 went past here this morning. Many people anyway. They were mostly around 45 or 40 years old. It seems that they have been asked to pay some charges which are increased to 10,000 yuan per year. Think of that. Their retrenchment compensation only gave them a little more than 100,000 yuan; some even got just several tens of thousands. . If they are charged more than 10,000 yuan a year -- think of those single income families -- after turning in their annual fees, how can they live? Say, look at my family. We had double incomes. One of us accepted the retrenchment compensation package; now it's all going back to them. Only my father is left now earning money. But for those families which have only one wage income, they get retrenched and now they have to pay back practically all their compensation money. How could they live on?!

Han:

So your family is still bearing up to such situation, are you?

Eyewitness:

Yes, we were a double-income family. Only my mother is retrenched.

Han:

And your father still works?

Eyewitness:

Yes, he does.

Han:

What about your parents, are they among the protesters?

Eyewitness:

No. My mother said at least one of us (has income).

Han:

Are the protesters all from those families where both are retrenched? Or are there others?

Eyewitness:

Some of them are, I guess. I saw the banners saying "We don't want to be tricked again!"; some said something like "Give my job back!"; and so on. The workers shouted slogans like "Stand Firm Until Victory!", "Give my job back!" and so on and so on. I heard that some groups of people laid down on the railways yesterday.

Han:

When was that?

Eyewitness :

That was yesterday afternoon.

An employee from Ranghulu railway station reports that train services have been affected since yesterday.

Railway station employee (Employee):

Our trains have been delayed.

Han:

In the morning or afternoon?

Employee:

Midday.

Han:

Midday?

Employee:

Yeah.

Han:

How long were the trains delayed for?

Employee:

Delayed for about 20 minutes, just like yesterday. I am on duty today, so I know.

Han:

So are the protesting workers still there?

Employee:

No. They did not come to our station. Anyway, the public security police have been stationed here for a whole day.

Han:

Are the police still there now?


Employee:

No, they've gone now. No one is here now. The protesting workers have never been here from the beginning. .

Han:

But how come the trains have been delayed?

Employee:

They (protesters) are all on track 168.

An officer from the Ranghulu branch of the Public Security Bureau said that the police was only there to maintain order while the workers staged their actions.

Police officer:

It was just a collective petitioning march, and it was in good order. We only needed to make sure that nothing went riot.

Han:

How many people were there today?


Police officer:

We cannot tell you this!

Han:

Can our local police force handle this?

Police officer:

No, how could it be possible?!

I called the Daqing municipal government office. A cadre from the information and reception department talks about what he knows about the situation.

Cadre:

It has been [going on for ]four or five days. There were fewer people at the beginning, about two or three thousand people. From yesterday, the number has swelled to more than 50,000.

Han:

Are they still gathering there today?

Cadre:

Yes, they are still in the square.

Han:

You mean now?

Cadre:

Yeah yeah yeah. Yesterday was worst. There were over 50,000 people. The DPAB and the Petroleum company are located in the same building. The building housestwo restaurants: one caters for over 500 ordinary staff and the other little restaurant caters for up to 100 senior cadres above departmental grades. The workers have been going to these restaurants at meal time. They are served with tea-boiled-eggs, Tofu soup and buns. This goes on daily. The entire Bureau office cannot operate any more. There doesn't seem to be too militant actions going on these two days; they [workers] are waiting for them [the management] to come out with a reply. But their leaders [DPAB] still haven't shown up. These senior DPAB cadres are having their lavish meals in their little restaurant -- eight different dishes and Wu Liang Ye (superior Chinese wine) everyday. The workers found this out now. Drinking Wu Liang Ye and having eight different dishes everyday!

To continue, this officer cites as example his wife's situation, detailing the reasons behind the workers' actions. He says that he has learned that upon hearing the news of the Daqing workers' struggle , workers from the oilfields in Xinjiang, Shengli and Liaohe have mobilized solidarity actions.

Cadre:

DPAB signed an agreement with the retrenched workers, but they [management] broke it. My wife is one of the retrenched workers.

Han:

How is her situation?

Cadre:

She is for sure unhappy! At the beginning it was written in the agreement that the retrenched workers would be treated the same way as the employed workers. Take their heating fee for instance, after their retrenchment, it would still be paid for by the DPAB. However, beginning this year, they have stopped their payment . You will have to pay your own!

Han:

How much does it cost per year?

Cadre:

About RMB 3,000.

Han:

So about RMB 3,000 heating subsidy has been cancelled?

Cadre:

Yeah, just cancelled like that. This is one reason [causing the protests]. Another reason is that the retrenchment agreement stipulates that every individual retrenched worker would pay RMB 2,600 a year as their social labour insurance contribution to the insurance company. But the fee went up to RMB 3,600 last year, and up again to over RMB 4,000 this year.

Han:

So why did it go up, any reason?

Officer:

No, don't know. They just raised it in whatever way they wanted to.

Han:

Did whatever they wanted?

Officer:

Yes.

Han:

And gave no explanation?

Officer:

No explanation.

Han:

But that concerns over 50,000 people . . .

Officer:

50,000? As far as I know, according to our information, if no reply were given in these three or four days, I'm afraid they would go to block the railway lines at Ranghu Rail Station. There are over 80,000 workers. More than 70,000 are from the Daqing PAB, and over 10,000 from the Petroleum Corp. There are altogether over 80,000 workers! Tens of thousands of families are involved.

Han:

What's the percentage of that to the total number of families in Daqing?

Officer:

At least 50%. It doesn't only concern the stability of Daqing. It's a question for all the oilfields across the country. For example, Xinjiang, Shengli and Liaohe. All the oilfields in the country have retrenched workers.

Han:

So they all face similar problems.

Officer:

They all have similar problems. They are all beginning to act in support of Daqing [action]. I've heard that there are troubles [over there] too. But it's not certain, only hearsay. We have not investigated that yet. But I heard the retrenched workers [at Daqing] said that trouble had also started in Xinjiang and other oilfields.

Han:

That means there are joint actions.

Officer:

Yes, right, after learning about the action here in Daqing. They are also not happy with their treatment over there.

The official then said the government had sent not only the para-military police but also a tank regiment from a nearby barracks of the People's Liberation Army to cope with the massive number of protesting workers. But he added that he believed that the workers who have risen up will not be frightened off.

Officer:

The military police and the tank regiment troops have come.

Han:

A tank regiment?

Officer:

Yes, loads of people at the square!

Han:

Do the people [protesters] stay there round the clock, or do they go there only in the daytime?

Officer:

They come around 8 o'clock each day, and leave at the end of the day. All the traffic has been blocked. They are quite ferocious; at least up to now. And from what we've gathered, if this is not handled right, this matter will blow up even more and get worse.

Han:

So can this matter be solved in the next few days?

Officer:

It doesn't look very likely from the current situation. Because their [PAB management] leaders have not made an appearance at all. Up until now, the retrenched workers have come from all ranks -- workers, section heads, departmental cadres -- are all among them. So when they [PAB] sent some junior people out [to talk to the protesters], they were all shouted down; all scared off. There's no point for them to come out. What's the point in listening or talking to them? The top guys at the PAB and the Corporation [Daqing Petroleum Corp.] refuse to come out and talk. What's the point in sending some junior people out to talk?

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