Manager Killed in Mass Steelworker Protest in Northern China

July 27, 2009 4:19 am Last Updated: October 1, 2015 9:35 pm

On March 2, 2009 workers gathered in front of the Tonghua Iron and Steel Group in Jilin Province to appeal. On July 24, 30,000 protested and the manager was killed. (Chinese Blogger)
On March 2, 2009 workers gathered in front of the Tonghua Iron and Steel Group in Jilin Province to appeal. On July 24, 30,000 protested and the manager was killed. (Chinese Blogger)
The manager of a state-owned enterprise in northern China was beaten to death after 30,000 steelworkers held a mass protest against the privitisation of the company on July 24.

When the state-owned Tonghua Iron and Steel Group was bought by the privately-owned Jianlong Steel Holding Company, Tonghua workers feared mass lay-offs. Angered at the prospect they launched a mass protest and beat to death the new general manager appointed by Jianlong, Chen Guojun. Jianlong is the largest company of its kind in Jilin Province.

Internet bulletin boards in China indicated that Chen’s “high-handed attitude” had infuriated workers, according to the Financial Times. “He had reportedly said that he would re-establish Tonghua under the name of Chen and lay off nearly all the employees,” the newspaper wrote.

Chen Guojun was holding negotiations with middle level managers and employee representatives when protestors discovered his whereabouts. After they surrounded the office building, a group dashed into the meeting room, dragged Chen into a hallway, and beat him to death.

Local authorities dispatched several thousand military and anti-riot police to the scene. Witnesses said that because of the large number of workers, the police were reluctant to take any action. “If they did engage in anything, the death toll would not be just one or two, it would be many. That’s why they dared not make any move,” said one witness.

The witness continued, “The equipment in Tonghua Iron and Steel is very old, which makes the workers’ jobs extremely difficult and strenuous. Nowadays, if an average furnace worker works for a company that makes good money, he can earn about 1,700 yuan (approximately $249) per month. Usually, it is around 1,300 yuan ($190) or 1,000 yuan ($146) if it is not so good. Nevertheless, the annual income of Chen Guojun, the new manager for Tonghua who is also a manager of the privately-owned Jianglong, is as high as 4.5 million yuan, and the annual income of second or third level managers is hundreds of thousands of yuan.”

“Tonghua was established in 1958 and is the testament to the hard work of several generations of employees. Chen Guojun is going to control 70 percent of the company’s stocks, and all workers who used to be with Tonghua could lose their jobs. Who would not be angry if you told anyone about this?”

In October 2005 Jianlong entered a partnership with Tonghua, giving it almost 40 percent of Tonghua’s shares. The deal later fell after the financial collapse of late 2008, however. Tonghua suffered financial losses and was forced to repeatedly cut production; employee wages were cut to as low as 300 yuan ($43) per month.

When China’s steel industry started to pick up again in July 2009, Tonghua estimated that its revenue would reach 80 to 100 million yuan; Jianlong then took up plans for the takeover again.

Sometime after Chen’s death authorities announced the termination of the merger through factory loudspeakers. Workers set off fireworks to celebrate, and Tonghua resumed operations later that night.

Read the original Chinese article.