Hunan workers suffering from silicosis returning Shenzhen to show determination to seek justice with ropes

November 2018, Hunan workers suffering from silicosis travelled to Shenzhen to seek better rights. Representative from the relevant department pledged to come up with a new compensation scheme within one month. Worker representatives from Leiyang City and Sangzhi County then negotiated with Shenzhen Government representatives in early December and obtained positive results. The negotiation results were, however, overturned by Hunan People’s Government when it discussed the implementation details with the workers who returned to the province. In consequence, the workers grudgingly travelled to Shenzhen again in January 2019 to seek assistance from the Shenzhen Government.

According to the statements by the workers, preliminary agreements has been reached between the Shenzhen Government and the workers in early December 2018, including “humanistic care aid” with 120,000, 17,0000 or 220,000 RMB as compensation, to workers suffering from silicosis depending on the severities of their condition, monthly allowance of 3210 RMB, which is up to Shenzhen standard, to workers’ family members, and lifelong health care for free to the workers with silicosis. However, monetary compensation to workers and their family members those who have already received humanistic care aid in 2009 was not agreed. Since the main concerns of the workers were the coverage of their living expenses and medical cares, they agreed to the arrangement even though not all conditions could be fulfilled.


Howbeit, the Hunan People’s Government overturned the agreement when the workers returned to the province to discuss the details, and reduced the monetary compensation from 3,210 RMB to 1,000 RMB, which meets the local standard. Workers felt resentful for the decision and decided to go to Shenzhen again to seek governmental assistance.

Around 70 workers with silicosis consequently travelled to Shenzhen again on 5 January 2019 to anticipate further negotiation on the compensation issues with Shenzhen Government. On January 7, workers went protesting at the Bureau of Letters and Calls, demanding the clarification on amount of compensation after it was transferred to Hunan, and handling of and distributional details of the compensation. They also requested to supervise the accounts with the Shenzhen Government. Their action was brought to a halt, though, before they could reach the entrance of the Bureau. The police stopped and surrounded them to prevent them from getting close to the Bureau of Letters and Calls. In response, the workers tied themselves together with ropes so that the police could not deport them. Being surrounded, the workers lacked drinking water and food supply. Even more concerning was that some of the protesters were exactly the workers suffering from silicosis. At night, 30 to 40 protesting silicosis workers in Shenzhen were taken away in coaches by the police. Until now (8th January 2019), their whereabouts remain unknown.

The whole incidence was clearly caused by the Hunan Government, which overturned a promise to the workers.  Moreover, the Shenzhen Government’s suppression against workers with silicosis reflects its indifferent attitude to the promise it made. On the contrary, it only shows their wish to deport these workers from Shenzhen. Both Governments of Hunan and Shenzhen are urged to handle the appeals of the workers, earnestly implement the negotiation results, in order to protect the rights of workers who, through labour, painful effort and by grim energy, built our prosperities.