Police Use Tear Gas on Protesting Workers in China

March 13, 2008 Updated: March 13, 2008

HONG KONG—Chinese police shot tear gas at around 1,500 factory workers from a wood furniture company who have been on strike and clashed over contracts, a factory manager said.

Radio Free Asia said a tear gas canister struck and killed one female worker at the plant in south China and police had detained 14 others in a clash.

But the factory manager, who did not give his name, said nobody had died. Police in Boluo county, some 90 km (55 miles) north of Hong Kong in Guangdong province, could not be reached for a comment.

An online appeal outlining the workers' plight and apparently written by one of them said that in January the factory forced all employees to sign blank contracts before leaving for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Only later did they realise provisions for benefits they'd expected had been changed or excised, said the letter on the popular blogging and bulletin board Web site tianya.cn.

On Thursday, the strike, which included “basically all” of the workers from the Taiwan-owned Lisen (Boluo) Wood Products Co., entered its ninth day with little hope of the two sides coming to an agreement, the manager said.

“The current situation is still deadlocked and the employees are still not back to work,” he said by telephone.

“For the time being there's no way to come to an agreement because the two sides have different opinions. They have many specific demands, so it's hard to come to agreement,” the factory manager said. “We're willing to talk.”

He said the police used tear gas on Sunday, while Radio Free Asia reported that it was used on Monday.