Former employees of Chinese state-run banks rallied in front of a bank on Wednesday against wrongful terminations that have disrupted many families and, the aggrieved say, caused several deaths. The demonstration followed a protest held two days earlier in front of Beijing petition office, under the watchful eye of the police.
Early in the morning, about 3,000 former employees, visibly upset, held up banners that read “Injustice” or “No to Hunger and Corruption, Yes to Survival and Human Rights” at the main offices of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest of the four state-owned banks in China. Police arrived soon after to block off roads.
The sudden loss of their jobs has created a number of difficulties for the former bank employees, according to Wu Lijuan, a former bank employee.
“The wives of half the fired employees divorced and left them, taking the children too. A fifth of us grew sick and died after being laid off,” Wu told The Epoch Times, “We’re not getting insurance. We can’t afford a doctor. Over 20 people have killed themselves by jumping off a building or drinking poison.”
Beginning in 1999, Chinese banks, including China’s four largest, have reportedly dismissed a total of over 600,000 employees without following lawful procedures, as the banks downsized in preparation for going public.
The average ages of the laid off employees are between 40 to 50, meaning they are typically in the last part of their careers, a difficult time to find alternative jobs; they were also likely educated during the Cultural Revolution, a tumultuous era in China that would have taught them little technical skill.
For her protesting efforts, Wu has been detained over ten times, given countless court summons, and has been sent to a re-education camp. Similarly, about two-thirds of the crowd were dragged into a bus by security guards sent by police and driven away.
“We need to make a living,” Wu said. “They fired us illegally and we’re demanding our jobs back. As we shouted and sang, everyone was crying, all men and women alike.”
Chinese banks offer those laid off a one-time severance package of 50,000 to 60,000 yuan ($8,140 to $9,769) and a yearly payment of 2,500 yuan ($407).
“We’ve become social outcasts,” said a protester, who identified himself by the surname Ya, “Nobody cares about us. The bank ignores us and society has shunned us.”
Ariel Tian contributed research. Translation by Frank Fang.