Silicosis Workers from Hunan Province Fought for Their Rights in Shenzhen and Were Assaulted by Police

On 7 November 2018, over 300 Silicosis victims and their family members from Hunan Province staged a march and sit-in protest in front of Shenzhen City Government, demanding the government to help them with medical expenses and compensation issues, as they contracted the occupational disease in Shenzhen. In the same evening, police assaulted the workers to disperse them, causing many incidents of injuries and hospitalization.

Since 2009, workers from Sangzhi, Miluo and Fuyang City of Hunan Province have visited the authorities in Shenzhen seven times. They were former construction workers in various sites in Shenzhen a decade ago, worked as pneumatic drillers in miserable working environment. After some years in Shenzhen, they returned to their hometown because they felt ill. In Hunan, they were diagnosed with Silicosis, which is an occupational disease. After realizing their employers never paid for their labour insurance and they did not have written employment contracts, they could neither obtain occupational disease identification, nor apply for compensation, they started to approach the Shenzhen Government and its Labour Department for help.

 

In September 2018, some 200 workers came to Shenzhen and the government promised to handle the compensation issues of 227 workers who had kept their employment records, also to assist workers who could not provide their labour relations as appropriate. On 6 November, over 100 workers visted the Shenzhen Government to demand a concrete proposal. The government failed to deliever its promise and more workers and their families travelled from Hunan Province to fight for their rights. As a result, many of them stayed overnight in the office of Shenzhen Social Security Bureau in Shenzhen Human Resource Park.

At 9am on 7 November, police came and demanded the workers to clean up and leave. The police threatened them with arrest if they would not leave before the deadline. Workers were angered and demanded to meet with leaders in the relevant authorities. Police agreed to pass their message to their supervisors. In the afternoon, some 300 protestors marched from Shenzhen Human Resource Park to the City Government and stayed there. Until the evening, the City Government ignored the workers and workers were upset by its arrogance. Workers started to argue with the police and later the police attacked them with violence, tear gas and pepper spray. Many workers were injured or felt sick and were taken to hospital. These workers suffer from silicosis and have very weak respiratory system, attacking them with pepper spray and tear gas is seriously endangering their lives.

 

Shenzhen Government should value the contribution these workers made for the city and help them with medical support and living allowance. It should also safeguard their fellow workers, to eliminate the chance of the existence of another “silicosis village”.