On 4 August, more than 60 workers employed by Yunyu, a jewelry company, held a demonstration protesting wage arrears in Lijiang, in the southwestern province of Yunnan. Workers desperate to recover their wages kneeled down at the Red Sun Square and police were quick to intervene. Videos online show police beating up protestors. In a statement, Lijiang Police accused the Yunyu workers of illegal assembly and urged protestors to abide by the law.
Workers claim they have not been paid for four months and that the company closed down in early July. As the bankrupt company started moving out assets, over 200 staff went to the offices of the local labour department for help, and waited there for four days only to learn that the officials were not able to provide any substantial support. As options seemed to run out, desperate workers decided to stage a public protest.
Local authorities responded by sending police in riot gear to disperse the protest. Several workers were heavily beaten and taken to the police station. Workers’ phones were confiscated, apparently to prevent videos of the violent police intervention from being shared on social media. Yunyu workers have started questioning the effectiveness of existing institutional channels which supposedly safeguard their rights.