Chinese police have repressed a protest by textile workers struggling to recover unpaid wages and other benefits after their factory went bankrupt.
On 8 February around two thousand workers from the Tieshu Textile Factory in Suizhou, Hubei province, blocked the local railway for most of the morning. Around 800 armed and regular police from neighbouring towns arrived to disperse the protestors, and blocked the arrival of hundreds more who were heading toward the scene.
According to eyewitness reports in the China Labour Bulletin, scores of demonstrators were injured. The police randomly hit demonstrators regardless of what they were doing. One 65 year-old woman was hit over the head from behind with a police baton.
The police arrested several workers leaving the protests, and further detentions took place over the following three days. Some reports say the detained workers were being held in a local hotel for special "re-education" sessions organized by the state-run official union ACFTU and the police. Others said that more than 20 detainees were being held at a local detention centre.
The factory, which employed nearly 6,000 workers, was declared bankrupt in December 2002. Many workers bought shares in the factory in order to support it financially, and have now been told they will not receive their pensions, other benefits and basic living costs they were promised. Workers argue that the factory went bankrupt because of corrupt officials, and staged large-scale public protests throughout 2003.
Since the assault, a thousand workers have gathered every day outside the gates of the Suizhou municipal government buildings. On 11 February, when the workers attempted to enter the town hall to seek dialogue with the local government, another worker leading the demonstration was arrested.
- More information from the China Labour Bulletin website