“They went to the city government yesterday to demand action on the company, and I think the city officials are talking to them today, too,” said Yu Changjiang, a local resident.
Because of the downturn in the economy the plant in question is planning to lay off thousands of employees. But a company boss, Ge Weiqing, is also thought to have absconded with about 100 million yuan (US million), part of which is said to be from the workers’ pension fund
Faced with such injustice, few rights and little faith in a legal system under the thumb of the Communist Party, ordinary citizens are now clamouring for the authorities to guarantee them at a time of crisis the minimal economic rights they have.
For instance in Sanya (Hainan) and Yongdeng County (Gansu) hundreds of taxi drivers launched strikes over monopolistic taxi companies, rents for cabs and illegal taxis. The drivers want local administrations to solve the problems. Their colleagues in Chongqing did the same earlier this month.
Online postings have reported that in Malanzhuang town (Tangshan, Hebei), Zhang San, the alleged head of a local group of gangsters (but thought to have connections with local government officials), beat to death a local peasant, Lu Gui, and intimidated local residents into selling their land for peanuts. But here too the death prompted scores of angry people to storm the town hall demanding justice.
For some time Beijing has responded to the situation by telling local governments to prevent mass protests by any means.
Zhou Yongkang, the mainland's top official in charge of maintaining public security and social order, last month urged officials at all levels to prevent the rise of conflicts and to resolve disputes, knowing full well that protests are often triggered by obvious injustices.
By contrast a court in Tianmen (Hubei) convicted four urban management officials for their part in the death of Wei Wenhua, a local construction company manager, and sentenced them to three to six years in prison. Mr Wei was beaten to death after he stopped to film the culprits as they attacked residents in a village during a demonstration.
Such officials are employed in large mainland cities as a secondary security force, but are regularly accused of heavy-handedness in carrying out their duties.