China: Factory workers, teachers, even police strike, occupy buildings

Eric Lerner

In November and December, workers protest has been accelerating across China as the economy spirals downward. In most cases, workers won concessions from a government worried that protests will escalate to challenge the Communist Party’s capitalist rule.

The current round of actions began on November 3, when 9,000 taxi cab drivers went on strike to protest high fees and a shortage of fuel. Strikers smashed the cabs of strikebreakers and police arrested some strikers, with the strike ending on Nov.5. But the strike spread to other cities, and on Nov.10, hundreds of cab drivers rallied in front of the government building of Sanya in Hainan province while on the same day another 100 drivers struck in Gansu province. By Nov.19, the protest spread to the suburbs of the major city of Chongqing and on Nov.21 to Guangdong province. On December 1, 10,000 drivers struck in Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital— a city of 9 million and China’s third largest (formerly known as Canton in English).

In contrast to earlier strikes, the government-controlled media gave wide coverage to the taxi strikes and the strikes generally won their demands, with officials agreeing to increase fuel supplies, eliminate extra fees and eliminate unlicensed cabs.(Asia Times Online)

But before the strikes ended, farmers in Gansu received very different treatment. There, in the city of Longnan, a small group of farmers protested at the local government building the lack of promised compensation for damage from last May’s huge earthquake. The farmers were angry that the government officials were intending to use earthquake relief funds to move their own headquarters to a safer area, robbing funds aimed at compensating the 1.8 million made homeless by the quake. Police brutally attacked the protestors, arresting and wounding many.

The next day, enraged by the police brutality, a mass of 50,000 peasants and workers descended on the government building, leading to a patched battle it hundreds of police. Again, the protest were reported widely in China, although, as of this date, there was no word that the protestors demands had been addressed. (

In December the protests spread to manufacturing, where mass layoffs are still accelerating, and escalated to occupations. On Dec. 1, two hundred workers from a smelting factory blocked a highway in Guangzhou, demanding that their labor contracts be renewed for the New Year. They also occupied their factory. After two hours, they won their demands. By December 8, the protests spread to Shanghai, China’s largest city. Hundreds of workers at the Taiwan-owned Shanghai Yinsin computer factory struck that day, demanding severance and back pay for working at high temperatures and nights. The workers, overwhelmingly young women, stood firm against police harassment, and an attack by company security guards and hired goons. The strike was settled three days later, although details war no available. (AP reports)

Public sector workers are joining in as well. One thousand teachers struck December 2 in Longhui County, Hunan province, occupying their schools and demanding five moths’ wages that was owed them. Teachers in neighboring Shenyang County were reported to be planning similar protests.

The government may not be able to count on the police to control this protest. On December 2, more that 100 police struck and occupied the city government building in nearby Liaoyang City, also in Hunan, for three hours to demand a wage increase. (