Timing their protest with the Chinese Communist Party's run up to its 16th Congress, workers in Liaoyang city held two collective demonstrations on November 5 and 6th. Led by workers from the bankrupt Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory, thousands of people from state-owned enterprises in the town demonstrated in front of the city government offices demanding the release of their arrested representatives and that the government issue basic welfare subsidies that they are entitled to on the basis of regulations concerning redundancy. They also demanded the return of contributions to a housing scheme fund set up by their employers.
On November 5, 2002 between three and four thousand workers demonstrated in front of the government offices. The workers came from different enterprises including the Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory, the Liaoyang Steel Rolling Mill, the Liaoyang Canning Factory, the Liaoyang Textile Factory and others. The workers held banners saying, "Welcome the Party's 16th Congress" and "What crime have the Liaoyang Four Committed?" According to a retired worker from the Ferroalloy Factory, organisers had pasted up three open letters, signed in the name of "Party members", "young workers" and "retired workers" respectively, in the working class districts of the city. The letters appealed to people to gather in front of government offices on November 4, 5 and 6 and called for the release of the Liaoyang worker representatives. It also demanded that the government issue unemployment allowances, welfare subsidies for those under the government-fixed poverty line and that their former employers return the Rmb 2,000 that each worker had previously made to a housing fund as well as reinstate a cancelled heating subsidy.
The next day, November 6, at least 200 workers again petitioned the government. Police disbursed both demonstrations on the orders of the government.
There are approximately 130,000 unemployed and laid off workers in Liaoyang. Many are long-term unemployed living in straightened circumstances. However, in order to present a false picture of good government in the run-up to the aforementioned 16th Congress, the local authorities have issued statements declaring that 96 per cent of the city's previously unemployed workers have found work. This whitewash has only served to further anger Liaoyang workers.
China Labour Bulletin
November 7, 2002