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Large-scale workers demonstration break out after their factories declare bankruptcy

July 16, 1997
  • Over 100,000 workers demonstrate in Mianyang City, Sichuan Province, after their factories declare bankruptcy and officials embezzle their unemployment relief money
  • The People's Armed Police suppress the protestors with force, resulting in heavy arrests and injuries
  • Prominent Sichuan dissident Li Bifeng, 33, issues an open letter calling on international labor organizations to come to the workers' aid

Large-scale demonstrations broke out in late June after workers from three state-run fabric factories lost their jobs when the factories suddenly declared bankruptcy. Unemployment relief funds, insufficient to begin with, were ravaged by corrupt officials. In response, over 100,000 workers launched protests denouncing graft and appealing to the government to protect their right to subsistence.

The government responded to the workers' appeal with an official editorial in the Mianyang Daily accusing hostile foreign and domestic forces of stirring up the trouble; the imposition of a citywide curfew; and then, around July 10, a violent crackdown by the People's Armed Police in which over one hundred workers were wounded and more than eighty apprehended.

Public Security officials ordered hospital personnel not to treat the wounded demonstrators, comparing them to the counterrevolutionary thugs who rioted in Beijing in 1989.

At present Mianyang is still under strict police control, and many of the detained workers remain in custody. In his open letter dated July 16, Li Bifeng calls on labor organizations worldwide to intercede on the Mianyang workers' behalf, making the following demands of the Chinese government: respect its promise to the Chinese people to safeguard their right to subsistence; release unconditionally all of the detained workers; provide medical treatment to the wounded workers; and punish the corrupt officials.

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