November 5-8, 2018

Location: Shenzhen,

Participants: More than 300 

Hundreds of Hunan workers petitioned the Shenzhen government in Guangdong demanding compensation for medical costs associated with contracting silicosis, an incurable lung disease caused by prolonged inhalation of airborne silica dust. Workers contracted the disease while working on construction sites in the metropolis during the 1990s and 2000s.

On November 5, Hunan workers organized a sit-in protest outside the Shenzhen Social Security Bureau. The protestors’ called on authorities to address their demands for medical compensation. Protestors marched to the municipal government offices, demanding to meet with the mayor. Conflict broke out at night when a female worker tried to stop police from collecting video footage of the protestors. Officers used batons and pepper-stray to disperse the crowds, leaving several injured. After protestors threatened to jump off a bridge in response to the heavy policing, government representatives agreed to meet with the workers and discuss their demands on November 9.

Over the years, 720,000 workers in China have been diagnosed with silicosis. Experts estimate that the total number of people impacted by the disease likely stands at six million, with most sufferers being migrant workers from the central and western regions of China.  Workers without an employment contract face significant challenges in successfully claiming compensation for occupational illnesses. It is estimated that only 9.5% of silicosis sufferers had employment contracts at the time of contracting the disease.