Dui Hua’s Mass Incident Monitor tracks unrest in China and those detained for their participation in these events. Monitoring these events allows for a greater understanding in how Chinese police investigate such incidents and the measures they take to prevent them. Key to preventing the outbreak of mass incidents—and their transformation into destabilizing political affairs—is expansion of police intelligence-gathering activity. The role of social unrest as a breeding ground for subversive activity makes mass incidents a key area for continued research for Dui Hua.
Parents Protest Rotten School Food
March 13, 2019
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan
In March 2019, hundreds of parents protested in Chengdu, Sichuan, over the provision of rotten food at the private Chengdu No. 7 Experimental High School. The protest was sparked when some parents discovered on March 12 that the school canteen was providing moldy food for the students.
On March 12, a number of parents had posted photos and video clips of the rotten food online, complaining complained that the school not only provided frozen meat and instant food, but also moldy and expired food to its students. They were dissatisfied with the poor hygiene in the canteen’s kitchen as well. Some parents even connected their children’s health problems such as prolonged diarrhea and hematochezia with the rotten food they ate. The parents were particularly discontented because the private school charges high tuition fees — 39,000 yuan a year. It has also been designated a model school in the province. They did not expect such low quality food.
On the following day, hundreds of parents marched along a main road in Chengdu and gathered outside the school gates and demanded an explanation from the school. Some of them even knelt down, hoping that the local Wenjiang district government would intervene and investigate the issue. The government, however, regarded the protest as interrupting normal social order and disrupting traffic. According to government reports, the police first warned the protestors, who responded with violence and swearing. The police then dispersed the protestors with brute force and pepper spray. Twelve people were arrested. They were released on the same day after showing repentance. Several days later, the schoolmaster of the high school was fired. Several responsible government officials in the Wenjiang district were put under investigation. The school apologized for providing the rotten food, and the Chengdu city government promised to launch a comprehensive investigation into school canteens throughout city.
However, on the same day as the protest, three parents were arrested for faking the photos. The government accused them of spraying turmeric powder and red fermented rice on the frozen food, and based the accusation on footage provided by closed-circuit cameras in the school.
Protest by Students in Hubei
March 11, 2019
Location: Tianmen, Hubei
Participants: About one thousand
On March 11, 2019, about one thousand students from the Tianmen Vocational College protested in Tianmen, Hubei Province. They claimed that the college had made a mistake, causing them to be disqualified to sit for the 2019 Technique–based National Higher Education Entrance Examination (技能型高考), focused on the students’ ability to control machines.
Holding banners and chanting the slogan “I want my Higher Education Entrance Examination! Return my dream to me!” the students marched along the streets and headed towards the city government building, where the Department of Education is located. Soon after the demonstration began, however, police forces were dispatched to stop the protestors from proceeding. Riot control vehicles were sent to block their way. Students at the front were beaten by armed police when they attempted to reach the vehicles. Many of them were injured. A female student’s injuries were so painful that she was unable to get up after being knocked down.
The high school students are likely frustrated because the college has failed to enroll the students in the examination. The college has changed the “origin of student registration” (xueji) for them, but it has misled the students that it was not necessary to change the hukou as well (China’s system of household registration, by which citizens are legally linked to specific geographic areas that also have crucial implications for many aspects of their lives, including for which schools and universities they are eligible). Under the new regulation of the Hubei authorities introduced in 2019, one’s xueji must correspond to one’s hukou if one wants to take the exam in Hubei. Some students are furious as well because they have already paid the full tuition fees for three years so that they can take the examination in 2019. A legal expert explains that the college may have violated the law if it intentionally charges tuition fees for making unrealizable promises, in which case the relevant personnel can be charged with fraud.
Workers Suffering from Silicosis Protest for Medical Compensation in Different Places
January – March 2019
Location: Luoyang, Henan; Zhangjiajie, Hunan
Participants: Over one hundred
In the first quarter of 2019, workers suffering from silicosis continued their protests for medical compensation. There are mainly two groups of workers demanding fair treatment from the government. The first group is from Sangzhi County, Hunan, and the second group is from Ziyang County, Shaanxi.
Thirty-three people working on construction sites from the Hunan group who petitioned the Shenzhen government in last November were dispatched from Shenzhen, where they had been working, back to Sangzhi County by force in early January. The Shenzhen government promised to pay each of them ¥1070 per month, but never did so. In the end, each worker received ¥259 per month from the Sangzhi County government instead. On February 1, eighty workers petitioned the county government for more compensation. The county government, however, stated that they could only raise the amount to ¥500 at most, as “relief money.” An official even warned the workers not to petition anymore or “something bad” will happen to their children.
On March 3 and 4, over fifty workers from Ziyang County, Shaanxi, travelled to Luoyang, Henan. They gathered at railway stations and squares in order to draw public attention to the risk of industrial dust. Many of them have been using pneumatic drills in their workplace in Yiyang County, Henan, and contracted silicosis due to the lack of protective measures. They petitioned the Yiyang County government, asking for medical compensation and provision of protective gear in the workplace.
Silicosis has been a serious disease among factory workers in China for years. Most of the them are from China’s central and western provinces.
Smartphone Touchscreen Maker Lays Off Eight Thousand Factory Workers
November 16 – 17 2018
Participants: 5,000 workers
Biel Crystal, one of the largest suppliers of touchscreens to smartphone giants Apple and Samsung allegedly laid off more than 8,000 workers in November 2018. Since the start of the US-China trade war, Chinese coastal cities such as Shenzhen that are heavily reliant on manufacturing and export have taken the greatest hit. The company failed to reach an agreement with former employees and refused to meet their demands for workers compensation, which is mandated by the Labor Law.
Hundreds of workers protested outside at the company’s Huizhou factory gates on November 9, demanding to negotiate compensation packages with Biel Crystal. Some of the workers’ family members joined the protests. The South China Morning Post reported on November 16 that almost 10,000 people gathered outside the factory where they clashed with police.
Hunan Workers Suffering from Silicosis Protest for Medical Compensation
November 5-8, 2018
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.
Veterans Protest Police Brutality
October 4-7, 2018
Location: Pingdu, Shandong
In October 2018, hundreds of veterans protested in Pingdu, Shandong over reports of police brutality against veterans who petitioned the government for welfare benefits. The protest in Shandong was sparked when a group of 38 elderly veterans traveled to Beijing to petition the government. The petitioners clashed with police, with some sustaining injuries. The petitioners were forcibly sent back to Pingdu by authorities. After the story broke, more than 300 veterans from across China gathered in Pingdu to protest. The protest was cordoned off on October 8; police placed roadblocks at dozens of intersections around the protests and a city-wide lockdown was enforced. Local residents were directed away from the protest site where protestors were kettled by police. Police clashed with protestors, but no serious incidents were reported. The protestors were either escorted back home, taken on “forced vacations,” and some were reportedly detained.
In early December, CCTV, China’s state media, finally reported on the October 4 – 7 protests in Shandong. They described the protests as a “serious violent criminal case” organized under the guise of concerned “military veterans.” Ten veterans have been reportedly detained since the protests.
In recent years, veterans across China have been protesting for better access to welfare benefits and other forms of government assistance. The Ministry of Veterans Affairs was established in March 2018 in response to widespread grievances. Fair access to military pensions and other forms of social insurance is an issue impacting many people in China.