Hundreds of workers fired by a blanket factory in the northeastern Chinese city of Daqing clashed with police Monday during a protest to demand increased unemployment benefits, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
Paramilitary police beat and injured several female protesters, witnesses said, although local police were unable to confirm the injuries. The crowd, estimated at several hundred, had gathered outside the Daqing municipal building early Monday demanding to see the mayor, according to witnesses who asked not to be named.
One protester phoned RFA host Han Dongfang in Hong Kong from the site of the demonstration, with numerous voices shouting "We want to see the mayor!" in the background. Some protesters played the socialist anthem "The Internationale" on cassettes while chanting "Mayor Wang Zhibin, come out!"
The demonstrators were among more than 3,000 workers dismissed last year by the Daqing Blanket Factory after its sale to a private owner. Each of the workers received 10,000 yuan (about $1,200 U.S.) as a one-time payment and was then dismissed.
"Indeed, they have been asking us to address the case for a year," said one municipal official who asked not to be named.
"The blanket factory was shut down a long time ago. The workers have been taken care of. The municipal government gave them money already."
The workers, however, have staged a series of rallies, asking that they be either allowed to return to work or paid 3,500 yuan (about $425 U.S.) for each year of employment, as is customary in Daqing. Paramilitary police dispelled the workers from the municipal building early Monday morning. Clashes erupted when some of the protesters returned to the site in the afternoon, witnesses said. No reaction was immediately available from city officials.
(US: Radio Free Asia, 2001-10-15)