10/26/2004, 00.00
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Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Anhui provinces struck by prolonged labour strife

Two women arrested on charges of disturbing social order.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) –  Thousands of workers have been staging protests and blocking main railway lines, roads and bus terminals in the provinces of  Jiangsu, Shaanxi and Anhui during the past month in further signs of brewing social dissent on the mainland.

In Jiangsu province, two women who organized worker protests at their textile mill have been arrested on charges of disturbing social order and will likely be sentenced to prison.

The arrests  of Ding Xiulan, 45, and Liu Meifeng follow more than two weeks of protests by several hundred workers at the Zhongheng Textile Co. to demand compensation for laid-off workers. Protests outside the factory failed to elicit any response so workers moved their protest on Oct. 2 to government offices in the city of Yancheng in the eastern province of Jiangsu. At first government officials gave a verbal promise to resolve the issue, but soon after arrested the two protest leaders  and would be soon tried in court.

China allows only one Communist Party-controlled union and independent labour organizers can be sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges of subversion or other crimes.

In Xianyang (Shaanxi) angry workers from the No 7 Cotton Works blocked a main railway line for more than two hours on Sunday as a protest involving a Hong Kong-listed company entered its seventh week.  The protest started on September 14 when factory workers were presented with new contracts as part of a government plan to sell the factory to Hong Kong's China Resources Group.

Protesters were dissatisfied with the purchase price offered by China Resources and reports that it planned to lay off as many as 1,000 workers after the acquisition. "Workers have been staging sit-ins for more than 40 days. Some protesters even said they themselves would rather pay as much as the company has offered in the deal to buy the factory back," sources in Xianyang said.

While some factory officials claimed the protest was almost over and workers had agreed to resume work soon, a provincial government official said there had not been any breakthrough.

In Xian , the capital city of Shaanxi, a main bus terminal has been blocked for more than a month by workers from another state-owned factory.

Meanwhile, up to 10,000 retired workers have protested for days in Bengbu , Anhui, demanding that authorities address a shortage of pension funds in the face of rising prices.

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See also
Public protests against Hu Jintao
Officials cancel work rights conference
Workers strike for right to unionise
The everyday scandal of child workers
International Labour Organisation condemns forced labour in Myanmar


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