China workers trap official in 4-day protest

BEIJING: Hundreds of steel workers in

central China trapped a government official in their factory’s office compound for four days, angry at the official’s role in the state-run plant’s privatisation, the local government said today.

A local official denied a report in state-run media that armed police were dispatched to clear out the workers, saying they left voluntarily after the government persuaded them to go. “No conflict broke out during the protest, which was related to the restructuring of the steel company,” the official, surnamed Zhang, with Anyang city in Henan province, told The Associated Press.

As many as 400 workers for the Linzhou Steel Corporation and

their relatives dispersed early today after surrounding the company’s offices since Tuesday, the Linzhou city government said in a notice on its Web site. Anyang city oversees Linzhou city. Protests are common in China, especially as state-run companies are sold off and privatised, leading to layoffs. The government is also shutting down old, polluting steel mills to make way for more efficient plants.

A similar protest last month in northeastern China led to the general manager of a state-owned steel plant being beaten to death. That plant’s merger was called off.

The China Daily newspaper said today the Linzhou plant was sold last month to an unnamed private firm. Massive layoffs followed, and workers got just 1,090 yuan ($159) for each year of service, the report said. State media said the workers object to the restructuring and want higher compensation.

“Some contradictions occurred” during the restructuring process that began last year, the Linzhou government notice said, leading workers to gather at the offices and trap the official inside. The official Xinhua News Agency said a mediation team of Communist Party and government officials has suspended the factory’s takeover, but the buyer insists the deal is legal and should be carried out.