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Posted: 3/13/2002 7:36:05 PM EDT
7,000 Chinese workers unite in daring protest By Michael A. Lev Tribune foreign correspondent Published March 13, 2002 LIAOYANG, China -- For two days, the laid-off factory workers of this depressed industrial city have done what the angry and disaffected of China are never given permission to do. They organized a political protest. More than 7,000 workers came to Liaoyang's city hall from six state-owned, bankrupt factories where salaries and unemployment benefits have not been paid for months. They raised several unflinching anti-government banners. Then they stood or sat quietly but defiantly under police watch for most of Monday and Tuesday to make their grievance known: Official mismanagement and corruption had destroyed their livelihoods. "Fire Gong Shang Wu and Liberate Liaoyang City," read one banner that blamed a high-ranking official for the collapse of the factories. "It is a crime to embezzle pensions," read another. It was an extraordinary act--brave, maybe foolhardy--for workers in an authoritarian state that tolerates no political dissent or organized opposition and can detain critics in labor camps for three years without trial. Over the last several years, there have been hundreds of reports of large-scale or violent protests by laid-off factory workers and overtaxed peasants left behind by China's dynamic transformation to a free-market economy. The demonstrations have always been isolated and efficiently quashed through quiet negotiation or the threat of immediate police action. But as the number of protests has grown, so has the possibility that unhappy groups will band together, giving momentum to anti-government sentiment. Frank Lu, who runs a Hong Kong-based human-rights monitoring agency and who first reported the Liaoyang protest, said that the incident represented a stepped-up challenge to the government because it was the first demonstration he knew of in which angry workers from different factories organized together. They also dared to air a direct political message. "The aim of the protest was more political, and their aim was more long-term," said Lu of the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. "There were 11 banners overall, the most significant of which asked for the dismissal of Gong Shang Wu," the former party secretary and now head of the People's Representative office.
Link Posted: 3/13/2002 7:37:20 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/13/2002 7:48:35 PM EDT by shooter69]
The protesters said they knew they were taking a risk but thought they had no choice, that their protest was large enough to gain the upper hand, at least temporarily. They speculate that their protest was allowed to continue because they had organized a large enough group that they intimated the government into standing back. "They hate our guts for doing this and in the beginning they wanted to arrest us," said one of the organizers, who asked not to be identified. "But they realized the demonstration had become too big and they would need to deal with us if they want to keep social order." Protesters said they won a meeting with the vice mayor and a promise from the police chief not to arrest them, but they have not yet gotten what they want: an agreement from the mayor to punish corrupt officials, pay $2 million in back salaries and re-establish lapsed medical benefits. Another organizer said: "They told us to write down our demands and they would report them to the mayor. But they said this wasn't the correct way to complain. It would make the situation worse. "The police chief promised not to take revenge, but I don't know if he can keep his word." Workers said the rally was organized by representatives from several factories with similar complaints who knew one another from previous discussions with the government. In the neighborhood of one of the bankrupt factories--Liaoyang Iron and Alloy--workers said the company shut down in November. They said government officials sabotaged the factory by selling off equipment and skimming profits and then reneged on a deal to pay back 50 percent of what is owed workers by the end of 2001. "The whole system is corrupt," one worker said. ----------------------------------------------- Another Tiananmen square massacre?
Link Posted: 3/13/2002 8:15:35 PM EDT
How long till the Tanks roll in?
Link Posted: 3/13/2002 8:24:39 PM EDT
They probably won't. Although what's happening in China is not much like what happened in the Soviet Union in 1989 in details, the fact is that China is making an orderly transition toward a free market, capitalist economy and system of government. They haven't formally abandoned communism, but its significance is fading as their economic power is increasing as they try to become the world's manufacturing center. Eventually there will come a day in China when being a Communist Party member will be as socially significant as being a card-carrying regular customer of Blockbuster Video. CJ
Link Posted: 3/14/2002 12:14:07 PM EDT
Originally Posted By cmjohnson: Eventually there will come a day in China when being a Communist Party member will be as socially significant as being a card-carrying regular customer of Blockbuster Video.
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Be nice if millions don't killed before that happens. [stick]
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