Mass Paramilitary Deployment Quells Daqing Demonstrations

Three weeks after tens of thousands of retrenched workers from Daqing Oilfield began staging daily street demonstrations against terms of severance, the government moved in paramilitary troops over the weekend to stop the protests. During the week beginning 18 March, several thousand workers still staged daily pickets at the headquarters of Daqing Petroleum Administration Bureau.

A CNN report (20 March) said that the central government was determined to clamp down on the organized protests by force. The report quoted a source saying, "The police and the People's Armed Police (PAP) have been told to detain leaders of unauthorized labour unions as soon as unrest breaks out."

According to the Guardian (21 March), Daqing police claimed there were casualties in clashes between the paramilitary forces and the demonstrators.

An AFP report (22 March) quoted a worker in Daqing saying that a curfew had been imposed by the PAP, the police and soldiers around the DPAB headquarters and the Iron Man Square (Tieren Square).

Officials from PetroChina, the parent company Daqing Petroleum Corporation, have reportedly distributed leaflets to Daqing workers and appeared on television to tell protesters that there had been a misunderstanding of management policies. Workers were also promised that some of their demands, such as lower pension insurance premiums, would be met if the demonstrations ended. Some reports said that workers currently employed in the Corporation were promised wage rises if they were able to dissuade their family members and relatives from demonstrating.

According to the AFP (25 March), about 500 workers held a sit-in demonstration at the DPAB headquarters, only to be flanked by nearly 1,000 police and paramilitary forces, some in full riot gear.

There is now an imminent threat of arrest and crackdown on the core organizers and leaders of the Daqing demonstrations.

(Sources: AFP, CNN, Guardian, Reuters, Washington Post)



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