(Broadcast on October 15, 2001)
On the morning of October 15th, 2001, more than 300 worker representatives from the former Daqing Blanket Factory once again assembled in front of Daqing city government offices to demand a meeting with the mayor. A bystander at the demonstration phoned me from the scene and I recorded the emphatic slogans of the hundreds of women workers taking part in the demonstration.
(Live recording of the women workers repeatedly shouting We Want to See the Mayor!)
The workers had brought cassette players on which they played the Internationale while demanding to see Mayor Wang Zhibin.
(Live recording of the women workers repeatedly shouting Come out, Wang Zhibin!)
According to the workers, a private company bought the Daqing Blanket Factory in 2000. However, the redundancies which followed did not follow the pattern set by other companies in Daqing, whereby laid off employees were compensated Rmb 3,500 for each years service. Instead, each of the 3,000 odd workers were issued Rmb 10,000 and then sacked. A cadre from the government offices commented:
The womens petition yes there was indeed a petition, thats true enough but that was last year. The petition
Han Dongfang (Han):
Are they from the blanket factories?
What? The blanket factories went broke a while back and the city authorities have already compensated the workers. They got cash from the authorities!
So why are they still petitioning now?
I dont know.
The government cadre then asked me the telephone number of the eyewitness who originally phoned me about the demonstration.
How did they know about you? Do you still have the telephone number of the person who rang you?
You mean the person who rang me here?
Well, of course I wont give you that number!
In the year since the mass sacking, the workers have been continuously protesting to the city government. According to one insider, the cheated workers have two chief demands: either a return to work or a renegotiation of the redundancy arrangements in line with the Daqing city standard. At noon on Monday, the women workers were forced to leave the area by armed police, but returned in the afternoon. The police then attacked them and several protest organisers and participants were injured. One worker was left with blood pouring from a face wound. Please listen to the following recording of the slogans, along with the furious reaction to the police violence, that I was able to make via a phone call from the scene.
(Content of recording: background sound of The Internationale and the women workers repeatedly chanting We Want To See The Mayor and finally the voice of the caller saying the beatings have started.)
I telephoned several government departments to discuss both the collective protest action and the police violence. The most common reply from officials was either that they had not seen the incident or that they had just come for the afternoon shift and didnt know anything about the matter. We appeal to the citizens of Daqing to keep a close eye on this protest, and we will also follow it up.