Over Seven Hundred Arrested at Beijing Demonstration

By Lu Jianhui, Central News Agency
June 29, 2007 Updated: June 29, 2007

HONG KONG—Nearly one thousand people, mostly laid-off employees of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), held the largest demonstration of the year on Changan Street in Beijing. When the demonstration turned into a confrontation between police and demonstrators, over 700 hundred demonstrators were arrested.

Hong Kong's Mingpao Newspaper reported today that about one thousand former employees of the ICBC, representing 19 provinces, were gathered in front of the bank to demonstrate. The demonstrators had arrived at 8:00 a.m. Standing on Changan Street and facing the bank, the former employees, all wearing white hats, accused the bank of failing to keep its promises to compensate laid-off employees as required by law. The demonstrators had demanded to see someone in charge.

The bank was prepared for the demonstrators. To prevent anyone from entering the building, security guards closed the front doors and lowered the metal security gates just prior to the arrival of the former employees. More than a dozen police were present to maintain order.

At around 11:00 a.m., police started to make arrests. Several hundred police officers forced the demonstrators into seven or eight large buses. Some demonstrators resisted arrest and struggled with the police. One policeman grabbed a female demonstrator by the hair. The scene was quite chaotic.

According to a demonstrator quoted in the report, by early yesterday afternoon, over seven hundred demonstrators had been transported to Majialou Suburb where they were awaiting further police transport back to their respective provinces. Two demonstrators from Heilongjiang were injured. One was beaten unconscious.

A staff member from the bank said that the bank always obeyed the law. He added that he hoped the demonstrators would also obey the law and not disrupt social order.

The demonstrators said that the bank had agreed to compensate every employee 8,000 yuan (US $1,000), but paid only 2,000 yuan. The bank also refused to pay pension and medical insurance.

According to the bank, the former employees had quit voluntarily and therefore did not qualify for the minimum living guarantee. The laid-off employees have held several demonstrations in Beijing since last year's lay-offs. Both sides agreed to continue the negotiation process.