Five Detained for Organizing Factory Sit-in in Chongqing; Six Injured during Workers Demonstration in Sichuan ProvinceComments Off on Five Detained for Organizing Factory Sit-in in Chongqing; Six Injured during Workers Demonstration in Sichuan Province
Factory Sit-in in Chongqing
On February 15, Tongliang County Public Security Bureau (PSB) asked the five representatives, Tang Aimin (唐爱民), Hu Weimin (胡卫民), Li Taiyuan (李太元), Ou Hongyong (欧红勇) and Wang Yu (汪宇), to meet with the authorities to “discuss the problem of the plant”. The five were then taken into police custody. Tang and Hu have been criminally detained on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” but it is unclear where they are currently being held. Li, Ou and Wang have been administratively detained on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” in Tongliang PSB Detention Center. Other workers involved have been summoned or “invited for chats” by the local police. Police warned the workers that if they continue to “stir up trouble”, they would be arrested as well, and these workers are being closely monitored and followed by the police. According to workers, the police have said that Tang and Hu will be sentenced to between three and seven years of imprisonment.
The silk factory announced its bankruptcy in 1996 and was sold in 1998. At the time of the sale, the workers were not notified of the fate of the factory and were dismissed after being given between RMB 5,000 and 6,000. The workers suspected that the factory was sold at a massive discount and they suspected that the sale was a result of corrupt dealings involving local officials. After studying national regulations regarding workers dismissed due to factory bankruptcy and re-structuring, the workers believe that they are entitled to pensions, medical insurance, or at least compensation appropriate to the number of years they have worked in the factory. The workers have repeatedly complained to the relevant government offices s but have received no response.
In 2008, the factory’s equipment was sold. The factory itself is set to be demolished and the land sold for property development. In the beginning of 2008, the dismissed workers decided to occupy the factory and resist the demolition as an act of protest. In the latter half of 2008, in response to the workers’ sit-in, Tongliang County government asked the workers to elect representatives for negotiation with the government.
On February 16, the day after these five representatives were detained, about 2,000 government workers surrounded the silk factory and ordered those workers at the factory to leave. The workers refused to budge. Four hours later, the authorities ordered a group to enter the factory. The authorities had to withdraw after the occupying workers threatened with explosive oxygen containers. This is the first time a direct confrontation occurred since the workers occupied the factory.
Workers’ Protest in Sichuan Province
Between February 20 and 23, police clashed with about 1,000 workers from a textile factory in Zigong City, Sichuan Province, who have been demonstrating outside of the Zigong City government building. Six protestors were beaten and injured by the police. Liu Zhengyou (刘正有), a human rights activist documenting the protest, was interrogated for four hours and had his camera confiscated. It is believed that the workers are still demonstrating. However, much remains unclear about the protest. CHRD will closely monitor its development.
CHRD believes that Tang Aimin, Hu Weimin, Li Taiyuan, Ou Hongyong and Wang Yu have been detained solely for the peaceful activities of organizing fellow workers. The right to freedom of association is guaranteed in Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.
CHRD calls on the Tongliang County government to immediately release the detained workers and negotiate with their representatives.
CHRD is concerned that by detaining the workers and entering the factory by force, the Tongliang County authorities might turn a peaceful sit-in into a violent confrontation.