Laid Off Bank Employees Protest in Beijing

August 2, 2013 Updated: August 2, 2013

More than 3,000 former employees from four major banks across China began protesting in Beijing since July 22, demanding reinstatement, pension, and medical insurance. In spite of arrests and a refusal by bank officials to negotiate, protests are continuing.

The banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), China Construction Bank (CCB) and the Bank of China (BOC), forced employees to take a lump sum severance pay.

According to reports, since 1999 major bank systems have been announcing massive lay offs with the explanation that it was necessary for “reform” and “efficiency” in order to make major “internal adjustments.” 

Wu Lijuan from Hubei Province wasn’t buying the excuse that reforms needed to be made. “Those bank executives have a salary of millions, living in luxury villas and driving luxury cars, yet we cannot even afford food and doctor visits,” he said.

Determined protesters, who were illegally detained in Jiujingzhuang, a centralized black jail in Beijing, fought bank officials, went on a hunger strike, and continued to protest even after they were released.

In the beginning, over 800 protesters went on hunger strike for three days. Wu told the Epoch Times, “We were released on the fourth day. We again gathered in front of the ICBC head office and sat in there everyday to protest.”

As recently as July 29, approximately 500 people participated in a sit-in—most of them were again detained in Jiujingzhuang. Wu said there would be more protesters going to Beijing the next day.

Unyielding protesters fought off bank officials who tried to videotape them.

“There was a clash today because bank officials video-taped us; we tried to grab their camera and a fight broke out,” a male unemployed worker said. 

“The ICBC head office gave an order that no one is allowed to negotiate with any of us. They did not think that we could last. Indeed, we came from all over the country, it is very costly for us to stay in Beijing,” the former worker said.

One petitioner told China Business Daily the ICBC Head Office refused to listen to them. “We are frequently told by the people at the Complaints and Appeal office at the ICBC Head Office: ‘there is no policy to solve your issues, we do not have time for you; your appeal is an organized illegal assembly with foreign support.’” The accusation of foreign interference is a staple of Communist Party propaganda in response to protests.

In an Aug. 2 blog post republished by the mainland newspaper Southern Metropolis Dailiy, blogger Luo Xiuyun raised an alert regarding a bank protester he said he had been told had “disappeared” as of 18:00 hours.

Translated by Quincy Yu. Written in English by Arleen Richards.

Read the Chinese article.