Police clash with steel workers in China

BEIJING (AFP) – Armed police in central China have clashed with steel workers who were holding an official hostage in a protest over privatisation plans, state media reported Saturday.

The incident happened Friday at the Linzhou Steel Corporation in Anyang city, Henan province, after four days of demonstrations, the China Daily said.

Officers tried repeatedly to break through the lines of the workers, who had been patrolling the gates since early this week, the paper said, without stating if the police succeeded.

The paper quoted unspecified reports as saying the workers were holding an official of the local State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. It gave the official’s surname as Dong.

In a signal that authorities take the situation seriously, Chen Quanguo, a deputy governor of Henan, reached Anyang on Friday to address the workers’ “misgivings”, a senior city official told China Daily.

The clashes adds to recent evidence showing that labour-related unrest may be escalating in China.

Last month, angry workers in northeast China killed a factory manager amid a protest over an unpopular takeover.

Linzhou Steel, a state-owned enterprise with 5,122 employees, was sold to a private firm last month for about 64 million yuan (9.3 million dollars) without the workers’ consent, the paper said.

Massive layoffs followed the takeover, with workers getting 1,090 yuan for each year of service they had put in, according to the paper.

It is not the first protest over the privatisation of the firm, the paper said, citing a situation in March when more than 1,000 workers tried to resist the plans by blocking the streets and shutting off the factory for days.

“I’ve been with Linzhou Steel for more than two decades and all I got was 20,000 yuan and a letter asking me to leave,” one of the workers said on the Tianya.cn web portal.

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