05/11/2005, 00.00
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China, police clash with workers

Shenzhen (AsiaNews/Agencies) - About 500 workers at a Guangdong jewellery factory owned by a Hong Kong businessman clashed with police yesterday during a protest against harsh working conditions. They tried to block a bridge but the police dispersed the crowd.

The men work at Eryou Jewellery Material Ltd in Foshan and claim that the factory does not meet safety standards. They also accuse their appeal for government help was ignored.

Many workers have contracted the deadly respiratory disease pneumoconiosis, which is caused by inhaling rock dust for prolonged periods. The disease can cause death or permanent lung damage.

The workers accuse the factory of not providing them protective gear. They also At least 26 workers were confirmed to have contracted pneumoconiosis, a medical check-up last June showed, with 10 already in critical condition. The workers believe the actual figure could be much higher.

The factory stopped production in February after more and more workers were found to have the disease. The workers suspect the Hong Kong owner was trying to escape his responsibility after they found he had been secretly transferring machinery and equipment to another factory.

"We are afraid that he might suddenly announce bankruptcy and shut down this factory for good, so that he can avoid paying us compensation," said one worker with the disease.
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