Friday, June 1, 2012

Chinese Workers Defy the Government and Employers in Heated Riot

Chinese Workers Defy the Government and Employers in Heated Riot

May 29, 2012
An intense protest of enraged migrant workers broke out on Tuesday in Ruian, China. The city is located in the Zhejiang, a wealthy province in China. Reuters reports that about 1,000 migrant workers proceeded to turn over an iron gate, and damaged at least a dozen cars during their protest, which was centered on a government office building.
The demonstration began in the early morning after a young worker was allegedly killed by his employer over a payment dispute. The demonstration finally ended at midday after the family of the murdered man was given 300,000 yuan in compensation, which is the equivalent of about $47,000.
Worker uprisings have been extremely common in the last decade throughout China. Just a month ago, about 200 workers threatened to protest Apple’s Foxconn factory. The protesters, who were demanding “workplace adjustments” according to Reuters, threatened to jump off the roof of the factory in a show of solidarity. Although the disagreement was quickly settled in negotiations, the incident illustrates the often tense relationship between workers in factory settings and the large corporations that run the factories.
The controlling central government in China has also faced some intensive strikes and demonstrations over the years. In February, a riot broke out which left 12 people dead, the Guardian notes. Many people suspect the riot was an anti-government demonstration but little to no information was provided by officials monitoring the incident.
The government and companies often work together to silence workers’ demands. Wong Kam Yan, writing for Solidarity, writes:
In July 2004, it was reported that two battery factories on Mainland China had poisoned at least 370 workers with cadmium.  The two factories belong to the Gold Peak Industrial Holding Ltd, a Hong Kong and Singapore based Asian TNC; its electronic products are sold all over the world under different brand names.
The affected workers were paid little compensation, and at one point were even threatened by the company and the local authority that if they petitioned the central government in Beijing again they might end up with criminal charges.
Riots have also taken place in protest to economic issues. This most recent demonstration unfortunately fomented in the wake of the murder of a young worker, a 19 year old named Yang Zhi, a particularly tragic reason for action. The demonstration on Tuesday and those of the last few months all suggest that anti-government feeling is on the rise, making officials and police forces extremely nervous. Reuters reports that the Chinese government claims that around 90,000 “mass incidents” take place every year.
Most protests are quickly silenced and government officials are reticent to comment on uncomfortable or jarring incidents, such as the murder of the young worker in Ruian. Chinese officials have been particularly on guard since the international uproar that followed the treatment of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng as he attempted to escape from Chinese control this spring.
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