Five Held After Factory Closure Clashes in China's Jiangsu

china-glass-10212015.jpg Police line up at a worker protest following the closure of the Farun Glass factory in Zhangjiagang city, Jiangsu province, Oct. 20, 2015.
Photo courtesy of a participant.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have detained at least five people following clashes with protesting workers, who blocked a major road after the collapse of a major glass manufacturer.

Thousands of workers left without jobs following the collapse of privately owned Farun Glass Industry Co. staged a sit-in outside the factory in Jiangsu's Zhangjiagang city on Tuesday, and the area is still under security lockdown after riot police were drafted in from surrounding areas, protesters told RFA on Wednesday.

Photos supplied by protesters showed hundreds of people marching and blocking sitting an urban street, as well as scores police blocking off roads.

According to an announcement posted to Farun's website on Saturday, all production closed at the company on Tuesday, and workers "are not required to come to work."

A protester who gave only a nickname A Chen said more than 1,000 workers had gathered in the area after the announcement.

"Several hundred police came; they were riot police, and they used their batons to force us to retreat," A Chen said. "They told us they are calculating our final salaries, and that was that."

"The boss hasn't showed his face at all."

Considerable use of force

A second worker, A Chang, said police had cleared Tuesday's protest with considerable use of force, however.

"We just wanted an explanation, so some people lay down on the street, and others got a bit worked up, and sat there and refused to move," she said. "After that, the riot police and the government officials came and started to push us back."

"Some people were beaten unconscious by them, and they detained five people," she said.

A third worker, who declined to be named, said many are still reeling from the news, which comes as China's tightly controlled media steps up its reporting of positive economic news stories as the country's economy slows.

"The company had total capital of more than five billion yuan, and more than 9,000 staff, and it goes bankrupt, just like that," the worker said.

"They owe us a lot [in unpaid wages]," he said. "This is one of the biggest and best-known glass factories in the country. It has been going since the early 1980s."

A Chang said local labor bureau officials had asked the workers to wait until December to see if the company paid them.

"If they don't pay up, then they will take legal action," she said. "We had a meeting with management today, because want to sue the company boss, but the lawyers said it would cost us 150,000 yuan, so we dropped the idea, because that's a crazy figure, far beyond what workers can afford."

Rosy economic news ordered

An official who answered the phone at the labor bureau in nearby Chang'an township declined to comment on the labor dispute, however.

"I don't really know," the official said, when asked about the workers' allegations of unpaid wages.

An officer who answered the phone at a nearby police station gave a similar response, when asked about the arrests. "When my boss comes back, you can ask him," the officer said.

Repeated calls to the general switchboard of the Farun Glass Industry Co. rang unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.

The factory closure comes just weeks after state-run news agency Xinhua sent out orders to its journalists to step up reporting of positive economic news, amid slower growth than the country has seen in decades, along with sharp falls on the stock market and in the property sector in recent months.

In a directive dated Sept. 7, the agency ordered its reporters to "[promote] discourse on China’s bright economic future and the superiority of China’s system, as well as stabilizing expectations and inspiring confidence," according to the China Digital Times website, which collates and translates leaked propaganda directives.

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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