More than 2,000 workers at a Japanese-owned electronics factory in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong entered the sixth day of a strike on Wednesday, amid growing nationalistic rhetoric and anti-Japanese sentiment, sources said.
Workers at the Dongguan Zhangmutou Towada Electronics Factory are demanding compensation they say is owed to them by factory management, but have also unleashed their anger on government officials working for a resolution of the dispute.
Photos of banners and posters bearing slogans like "Chinese traitors" and "The Diaoyu Islands are ours," in a reference to a disputed chain of islands in the East China sea known in Japan as the Senkaku, were posted online in recent days, as were calls to "compensate the workers, protect their rights."
“Chinese traitors calling yourselves an advisory group, get lost!" one sign read, while another said: "Keep up the struggle to the end."
An employee who answered the phone at the factory on Wednesday confirmed that the strike was still under way.
"This hasn't been resolved yet, and nothing is decided," the employee said. "[It started on] Nov. 7. Last Thursday."
"The factory management is currently dealing with it."
A striking worker surnamed Hu said workers were angry that they had been issued with less favorable contracts when the factory changed its ownership structure and name.
A second striking worker, who gave his name as A Deng, said the new contracts had removed all seniority from the workers, requiring them all to start again with a loss of privileges, as if they were new hires.
"We have lost all our seniority because they have changed their structure," he said. "The senior workers won't have it, so we're on strike."
Both men said the entire workforce of around 2,000 was involved in the strike.
"We started striking on Nov. 7, and it is continuing today," Hu said. "The management has tried to work [for a resolution], but the [local government] has supported the management's stance, instead of supporting our demands."
Hu said the local government likely feared that Towada would relocate out of Dongguan if officials failed to support the management's position.
"So far, management hasn't been willing to have talks with us and all that has happened is that the local township government has [sent police] to suppress us," he said.
"We aren't getting compensated because the township government isn't willing to compensate us, so they and some other people are blocking it," Hu added.
He said one worker had been detained after demanding to know why plainclothes police officers at the factory weren't wearing uniforms, and calling on them to show their official police ID cards.
"These people got very angry and a few of them grabbed him and shoved him into their vehicle, which of course got people very upset," Hu said.
"After that, the entire workforce surrounded the police vehicle and wouldn't let it leave, demanding that the police let him go and apologize ... This went on for half an hour until the police couldn't hack it any more," he said.
An official who answered the phone at the Zhangmutou township government offices said the government was working for a resolution.
"Our human resources department is dealing with this, but it seems as if the workers are making some unreasonable demands over there," the official said. "But we definitely aren't taking sides."
"The higher authorities are explaining some of the clauses in our national labor law to them."
But Hu said the workers were basing their demands on an interpretation of the law handed down by China's Supreme People's Court in Beijing.
"They need to pay out economic compensation, based on Clause 13 of the Labor Law," he said. "We have told this to the labor bureau, but have heard nothing back from them."
An official who answered the phone at the labor bureau last Friday declined to comment.
"We can't give interviews here," the official said.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.