Police in northeast China yesterday stepped up an investigation into the beating death of a steel plant executive who was allegedly killed by irate workers fearing job cuts, the government said.
Employees at the Tonghua Iron and Steel Plant (通化鋼鐵) in Jilin Province were incited to riot on Friday by laid-off and retired workers who said more jobs would be lost after a planned takeover, the Jilin government said.
“A few laid-off and retired workers took advantage of the situation to create rumors and exploit some of the workers,” it said, recounting the events leading to the death of general manager Chen Guojun (陳國軍).
They “incited discontent in the crowd and focused the anger on Chen Guojun, whom they encircled, beat bloody and took hostage,” said a statement posted on the provincial government’s Web site late on Monday.
The newly appointed Chen was killed by “a small number of people” who held him hostage and violently repressed attempts by police and medical workers to rescue him, it said.
“An investigation into his death is ongoing,” it said.
Observers have described the killing as a possibly unique instance in China of industrial mob violence claiming the life of a senior executive and reported by the state-controlled press.
The unrest began after Tonghua, the province’s biggest steel maker, announced last week that it was being taken over by the privately owned Jianlong Group (建龍集團).
According to Monday’s Global Times, when Jianlong took a minority stake in 2005, many veteran workers at Tonghua were forced out even as the company hired a new workforce.
While Chen’s annual salary was 3 million yuan (US$438,000), pensioners were given as little as 200 yuan a month, the paper said.
The monthly pay of newly hired employees fell as low as 300 yuan a month after the economic crisis hit last year, it said.
On July 24, the day Chen died, the government announced that the takeover bid would be scrapped, effectively ending the unrest, the Jilin government statement said.