Experiments with Truth: Analysis

China’s workers turn up the heat in summer of protest

China’s long hot summer saw workers across the country stage strikes and protests against low pay, wage arrears and poor working conditions. In the three months from June to August 2013, CLB recorded a total of 183 incidents on our Strike Map, up seven percent from the previous three months, and more than double the 89 incidents recorded from June to August in 2012.* In July alone, we recorded 78 incidents, with another 67 in August.

Undeterred by record high temperatures, workers regularly took to the streets in protest. While most protests occurred in or close to the workplace, on at least 11 occasions workers deliberately blocked roads and bridges in order to further their demands. On one occasion, in temperatures of 39 degrees Celsius, workers at a textile factory in Nanjing blocked the roads in Luhe district demanding the payment of wage arrears after the boss ran off.

Not surprisingly, there was also spike in police intervention and arrests during this period, with 22 incidents seeing a police response, double the 11 incidents in the previous three months. Nine strikes ended with arrests, compared with only four from March to May. In Guangdong, for example, police detained 14 workers from Xinrongxin Kitchen Appliance in Shunde district on 27 August after they took to the streets demanding a total of four million yuan in wage arrears.

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