News that Beijing-based Jianlong Steel Holding Company would buy a majority stake in state-owned Tonghua Iron and Steel Group triggered Friday’s protest, which also led to 100 people being injured, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said on its Web site. Discontent over inequality and unemployment amid the economic downturn has triggered social frustration in China, with many cases of riots by angry citizens. Friday’s clash happened in Jilin Province.
Chen Guojun, the general manager of Jianlong, was beaten to death by workers who were angry that Chen was paid about 3 million yuan (US$440,000) last year, while Tonghua’s retired workers received as little as 200 yuan a month, the center said. A police officer from the Tonghua municipal public security bureau confirmed the riot and the death of Chen, who was in his 40s, the South China Morning Post said yesterday. “Yes, it did take place,” the newspaper quoted the officer as saying. “Workers from Tonghua would not allow ambulance and medical practitioners to enter the building to rescue Mr Chen and he died.”
Tonghua’s workers blocked highways and smashed three police vehicles in Tonghua city on Friday afternoon, the center said, adding that they dispersed late at night after Chen’s death. Jianlong, which temporarily controlled Tonghua last year, is attempting to buy Tonghua for the second time, the center said. China, the world’s top producer and consumer of steel, has been forcing its mammoth steel sector to slim down and consolidate, but its plans have generally met with resistance, with many local governments anxious to preserve their own sources of revenue. Local TV said on Friday the deal would be shelved permanently, the South China Morning Post said.