Shanghai Factory Workers Strike, Hold Managers Hostage

January 21, 2013 Updated: October 1, 2015
Workers at an electronics company in Shanghai stand outside during recent protests, after new Chinese management took over and instituted harsh measures on workers. (Tecent Weibo)

The staff of an electronics manufacturer that came under new management in Shanghai went on strike on Jan. 18, besieging the factory and locking 18 managers inside a room for two days. 

Employees of Shanghai Shenming Electric Motor Ltd. were protesting against 49 new “bully rules” instituted by new Chinese management that took over from former Japanese owners. 

A mob of workers kept 10 Japanese executives, including Shinmei Electric President Hideaki Tamura, and eight Chinese Communist Party cadres, trapped in the factory until Jan. 19, according to Japan Daily Press. One cadre was reported to have lost consciousness because of hypertension. The Japanese managers were still at the firm because the transfer to the new Chinese owners was not complete.

The police arrived on the second night and rescued the hostage managers. “That night, the authorities first sent the paramedics to carry out the manager with the excuse that he needed to see a doctor, followed by evacuating the rest of the managers, and finally they dispatched more than 300 riot police to the scene who hit anyone within their reach with rubber batons,” an employee named Mr. Liu told the Epoch Times.

Liu added, “The police ordered the female workers to squat on the ground and beat those who refused. All told, five were arrested, one was severely beaten, and another woman’s three ribs were broken. All of the female workers were unarmed. They asked the media to help, but nobody cared. The police forced photographers to delete photos of the police beating the workers. The female employees petitioned to the city government yesterday [Jan. 20], but with no result. The factory remained closed until Jan. 21.” 

The strike was precipitated by additional company regulations, instituted by new owners, that the employees believed were too harsh, and refused to obey. 

An employee named Mr. Chen gave some examples: “For instance, a worker will be punished with a fifty yuan deduction from his salary if he is late to work for the first time, and fired if he is late again. Employees are allowed only two minutes for going to the bathroom or making a phone call. They can be fired if they take more time than that. Mounted cameras will monitor the employees. The company’s wages, 1,500 yuan a month, are very low for Shanghai and it is difficult for them to survive on what they make. If the workers violate the new regulations and are fined, it will be even more difficult. No wonder as soon as the new management rules were announced, the workers were upset with them. This strike is the result of a long-term accumulation of problems.”

Another employee told South China Morning Post: “Workers feared that they would no longer enjoy the benefits accumulated in their previous years working in the factory after they signed a new contract following the acquisition by a Chinese firm in Dalian, Liaoning province.”

The company, founded in 1988, was originally a Sino-Japanese joint venture. The company mainly manufactures micro-switches, adjustable capacitors, electromagnetic coils and other electronic products, which are used in computers and communications equipment.

Read original Chinese article. 

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