Shenzhen police arrest Hunan workers legally petitioning for compensation in silicosis case

Translation of 警察抓捕合法上访的湖南肺工友,是可忍孰不可忍?          Translated by: Sam Austin

On 8 May, workers from Leiyang suffering from silicosis went again to the Shenzhen Municipal Petition Office. To their surprise, police were waiting there to arrest them.

One of the workers said, “Each time we’ve approached the Petition Office, there have been many anti-riot police standing guard there, watching us. Today seven large vehicles came with at least several hundred police – many more than us.”

By now the workers are quite familiar with the procedures for petitioning. Everyday they sign in, explain their demands and wait for a response. The rest is just a drawn-out process of waiting.

This afternoon around three or four o’clock, as the workers saton benches in the Petition Office waiting for a response, they were surrounded by a riot squad that significantly outnumbered them.

An official from the Office called the workers together for a meeting. The latter were expecting progress. They hadn’t imagined that the response would be–XXX incited workers online to raise a ruckus in defense of their rights.

The petitioners were perplexed. Those who had come here were either silicosis patients themselves or family members of those who had died or become ill from the disease. The purpose of coming here was to demand the rights to which they were legally entitled, not to cause problems for no reason.

After the official spoke, the police proceeded to seize people – those whom the government believed to be the ringleaders. The workers resisted, saying if anyone was to be arrested, it had to be everyone. This is what ensued:

The workers tried to protect each other, but most of them were already sick from silicosis, so how could they defend themselves against riot police who vastly outnumbered them and had been trained in combat? As a result, some who were seriously ill began to have trouble breathing, and others were pushed to the floor and injured. Five or six were sent to the hospital.


In the end, seven people (six men and one woman) were hauled off by the police. The workers grew furious and demanded the prisoners be released, or else no one would leave the Petition Office. At present (9:30 PM), the workers are still resisting, no one has left, not even to get food.


One of the workers said, “We were just sitting there not doing anything, not breaking the law. What right do they have to arrest us? Many of us are nearly dead from silicosis. If they’re going to detain people, they should detain all of us. Will they cure our disease in jail?”







[Left: Police assaulting the petitioners, photographed by a worker]

[Right: Riot police have good working conditions: they can be relieved by backup and go have dinner.]

This is the third time that the Hunan workers with silicosis have come to Shenzhen to fight for their rights. The Municipal Government has repeatedly used legal channels to postpone addressing their demands without actually solving anything. Rather than taking responsibility for its failure to monitor industrial conditions in the first place, it has actually employed state violence against those who have legally sought out what is rightfully theirs. Just ask yourself:

Several hundred drilling and blasting workers from Hunan’s Leiyang, Zhangjiajie and Miluo areas, began working in Shenzhen over thirty years ago. They had no employment contracts, their working conditions were terrible, and now that they have contracted silicosis, they are unable to provide proof of employment. Is this their fault? By legally petitioning in a reasonable manner, which article of which law have they violated, exactly?

Will the workers be scared away by riot squads? Will they stop coming to Shenzhen just because their problem has not been solved? They are already answering with their actions: no way!

We ask the Government of Shenzhen to act in good faith!



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