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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Factory workers riot in China
Chinese factory worker
China's factory employees have few rights
Thousands of factory workers in southern China fought running battles with security guards this week, Chinese media has reported.

The clashes at the Nanxuan Wool Textile Factory in Guangdong province lasted for three days and were said by local officials to be one of the worst examples of labour unrest in recent years.

Liaoyang protests
There have been a spate of labour protests in China
A plant manager, Wang Law, told the Associated Press that 63 people were injured, including about a dozen guards.

Pictures carried by the local Yangcheng Evening News paper showed trails of blood on the ground round the compound.

Queue squabble

According to Kayce Law, chief executive officer of the factory's owner, Hong Kong-based Nanxuan Industrial Co Ltd, the problems at the factory in Shuikou began on Monday when security guards tried to force workers to queue in the canteen.

Mr Law said those involved were actually workers from a competing factory, sent to cause trouble.

Migrant labourer
Migrant labourers face severe discrimination

The official People's Daily said the guards beat the workers, causing 800 of the factory's 15,000 workers to go on strike.

It said the security guards - who by now had received reinforcements - again beat the workers, this time using steel pipes, although Mr Law and Mr Wang both denied this.

The workers responded by smashing the factory windows and burning a car at its entrance, it was reported.

Local police tried to interfere but the security guards locked the gate of the factory compound and beat them back until riot police arrived, the Yangcheng Evening News said.

A Shuikou government official said production resumed at the factory on Thursday.

Frustration

A Hong Kong rights group told BBC News Online that violence in foreign-owned factories was common as they employ mainly rural teenagers whose naivety they exploit.

Han Dongfang, from the China Labour Bulletin, said that foreign factories have the worst conditions because their young migrant workers, who have often travelled thousands of miles, are inexperienced and psychologically isolated.

State-owned factories, where conditions are better, only employ people from the city where they are based.

He said that the workers' frustration is compounded by systematic discrimination:

  • They are forced to live in the factory compound
  • They are not allowed to form a union
  • If they take up a problem with their manager they are fired
  • They work 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week

And "if the (factory's) security person is not happy he will stop someone and beat them".

See also:

01 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
19 Sep 01 | Business
07 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
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