Press Release on Liaoyang Workers Again Raise Banners Demanding Release of Arrested Workers (2002-05-09)

9 May, 2002

China Labour Bulletin Press Release

Following the official May Day holiday period, hundreds of workers from the Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory gathered for three consecutive days in front of government buildings. The protests began just after 9 am on May 9 and were held to demand the release of four workers’ representatives. The workers raised two banners at the rallies saying: “Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory” and “Strongly Demand that the Government Release the Detainees”.

During the National People’s Congress held in Beijing in March this year, the chairperson of the Liaoyang People’s Congress, Gong Shangwu, whitewashed the situation in Liaoyang during a television interview. Gong claimed that all unemployed and laid off workers in the city were able to draw a minimum livelihood guarantee of Rmb 280 per month. At the rally on May 9, the workers demanded that the government honour the commitment Gong Shangwu made at the NPC and pay the Rmb 280 monthly livelihood guarantee. One worker told CLB that as they were getting nothing at all, Rmb 180 would be a start, let alone Rmb 280.

During the protests in front of the government offices, the authorities sent out officials to take down the workers banners. The banner stating “Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory” was snatched from the workers but despite some pushing and shoving between the workers and the government officials, they were able to protect the banner saying “Strongly Demand that the Government Release the Detainees”. After being surrounding and jeered at by hundreds of workers and onlookers, the several officials had no choice but to give up.

On a related issue, the Liaoyang Paper Mould Factory, which is situated nearby the Ferroalloy Factory, is also implementing retrenchment compensation arrangements with workers. A woman worker who said she had taken “internal retirement” at the factory told CLB that the compensation had been fixed at two levels – a lower one at Rmb 400 for every year worked and a higher level at Rmb 500 per year. According to her understanding of this arrangement, up to now a very small minority of workers had received Rmb 5,000 in compensation. She also said it was a pity that the Paper Mould Factory workers did not have the courage of the Ferroalloy workers. No one had gone to the government to put any demands.

Yesterday, the Ferroalloy Factory workers presented an application to hold a demonstration to the Liaoyang Public Security Bureau (PSB). However, when CLB made inquiries with the PSB, the officer on duty said that they had not seen any application.

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