July 26, 2009 / 5:36 AM / 8 years ago

Thousands of China steel workers clash with police

BEIJING (Reuters) - Some 30,000 disgruntled Chinese steel workers clashed with riot police in protest over a takeover deal, resulting in the death of an executive from another steel company, a human rights group said.

News that Beijing-based Jianlong Steel Holding Company would buy a majority stake in state-owned Tonghua Iron and Steel Group triggered Friday’s protest, which also led to 100 people being injured, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said on its website.

Discontent over inequality and unemployment amid the economic downturn has triggered social frustration in China, with many cases of riots by angry citizens. Friday’s clash happened in the northeast province of Jilin.

Chen Guojun, the general manager of Jianlong, was beaten to death by workers who were angry that Chen was paid about three million yuan ($440,000) last year, while Tonghua’s retired workers received as little as 200 yuan a month, the center said.

A police officer from the Tonghua municipal public security bureau confirmed the riot and the death of Chen, who was in his 40s, the South China Morning Post said on Sunday.

“Yes, it did take place,” the newspaper quote the officer as saying. “Workers from Tonghua would not allow ambulance and medical practitioners to enter the building to rescue Mr. Chen and he died.”

Calls to Tonghua by Reuters were unanswered on Sunday.

Tonghua’s workers blocked highways and smashed three police vehicles in Tonghua city on Friday afternoon, the center said, adding that they dispersed late at night after Chen’s death.

Jianlong, which temporarily controlled Tonghua last year, is attempting to buy Tonghua for the second time, according to the center.

China, the world’s top producer and consumer of steel, has been forcing its mammoth steel sector to slim down and consolidate, but its plans have generally met with resistance, with many local governments anxious to preserve their own sources of revenue.

Local television announced on Friday night that the deal would be shelved permanently, the South China Morning Post said.

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in HONG KONG and David Stanway in BEIJING ; Editing by Nick Macfie

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