30,000 Chinese workers in deadly clash

BEIJING: Some 30,000 Chinese steelworkers clashed with police in a protest over plans to merge their mill with another company and beat the company’s general manager to death, a human rights monitor said today.

Several hundred people were injured in the clash on Friday in the northeastern city of Tonghua, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a faxed statement.

Employees of Tonghua Iron and Steel Group object to plans for Jianlong Steel take control of the company, the centre

said. It said Beijing-based Jianlong controlled the company temporarily last year, and employees blame Jianlong for financial problems suffered

at the time.

Angry Tonghua employees attacked Jianlong general manager Chen Guojun during the protest and beat him to death, the centre said.

It said friends of Chen confirmed he was dead. Workers were angry that Chen was paid some 3 million yuan ($438,000) last year while some retirees received as little as 200 yuan ($29) a month, the centre said.

Beijing is trying to streamline China’s sprawling steel industry, the world’s largest, by orchestrating a series of mergers aimed at creating

globally competitive producers. The mergers often are accompanied by

layoffs that sometimes spark complaints that workers receive too little

severance pay.

A woman who answered the phone today at the government office for the Tonghua district where the steel company is located confirmed a protest occurred on Friday but said she had no details of deaths or arrests. She refused to give her name.

A man who answered the phone at the Tonghua city hall said provincial government and Communist Party leaders had taken charge of handling complaints by Tonghua employees. He would give only his surname, Xu.

Phone calls to the Tonghua company headquarters and local party offices were not answered.

Jianlong took over Tonghua last year but suffered losses after steel prices dropped and

jettisoned the company, the human rights

monitor said.