12 Protesting Workers in Guangzhou Arrested, Held in Illegal Custody

By Wan Fang
Wan Fang
Wan Fang
October 4, 2013 Updated: October 10, 2013

A dozen security guards from a University Hospital in China, who were arrested for protesting against unfair treatment, remain in custody after 49 days, with only three of their families having been notified of the arrest. According to a Chinese lawyer, the case demonstrates that abuse of power by the authorities is on the increase.

On Aug. 19, thirteen security guards who had worked under signed contracts at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine for over a decade, gathered on the second floor of the outpatient department. They hung banners on the glass canopy to protest against the hospital’s recent policy of hiring security and nursing staff through labor dispatch, which offers no insurance.

Hospital authorities called the police, who threatened to arrest them if they were still there at noon. One protester became frightened and left. The remaining 12 security guards were arrested on charges of “attracting crowds to disturb social order.”

The longest legally allowed detention time is 40 days, which passed on Sept. 29. Presently, only three of the guards’ families have received arrest notifications.

The hospital negotiated with the nursing staff and agreed to pay them 50,000 yuan (US$8,100) severance pay. However, it rejected demands by the security guards, leaving them with little option but to protest.

Family members of 10 of the security guards hired Guangdong Laowei Law Firm to represent them. Wang, a lawyer at the firm, told the Epoch Times: “These security guards just hung banners at a conspicuous place inside the hospital, hoping to attract attention and demonstrate their plight. Hospital routine was not affected by their actions, but now the authorities are treating them as criminals and punishing them.”

Chinese lawyer Sui Muqing told Radio Free Asia that in the past it was almost unheard of for workers to be arrested for collectively defending their rights. This event indicates that abuse of power by the authorities is on the increase.

“China calls itself a country ruled by the proletariat, but it’s ridiculous that China has no real unions,” Sui said. “The current unions are actually state agencies. In fact, workers’ rights are extremely difficult to protect, they are exploited by their employers and suppressed by the authorities. For the government to intervene with its power and arrest workers is unacceptable.”

Written in English by Christine Ford and Gisela Sommer.

Wan Fang