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Chinese Security Guards Dismissed Following Riot - 2002-07-01

More than 120 security guards at a textile factory in southern China have been fired following a riot that injured dozens of people last week. Paramilitary police were called in to calm one of China's most violent cases of labor unrest in the last few years.

The clashes between workers and security guards broke out last Monday at the Nanxuan Wool Textile company in Huiyang, Guangdong province. A government official, Lu Shunhui, said factory guards beat up one worker who tried to jump a line for food.

Mr. Lu said the clashes became much more violent on Wednesday, when hundreds of angry workers sought revenge by assaulting guards. Factory managers were unable to contain the fighting, so the Huiyang government sent in military police to restore calm. Most workers have now returned to their jobs. But Mr. Lu told VOA that a total of 63 people were injured in the riots, and four remain in critical condition.

Mr. Lu denied reports in a Guangdong newspaper that guards attacked workers with axes and sharpened pieces of iron pipe. But more than 120 security guards have been fired and are under investigation by police.

Mr. Lu said the government is also investigating factory management for its role in provoking the violence. He said there are too few mid-level managers to oversee the more than 14,000 workers at the factory. Security guards with little education are responsible for day-to-day supervision, and Mr. Lu says they often hit the workers to maintain discipline.

Almost three quarters of the factory's workers are women, but the clashes involved almost solely men.

Mr. Lu added that workers at the factory have no outlet for their grievances because they lack channels of communication with the managers. He said worker resentment builds up, making it easy for violence to break out.

The Nanxuan Wool Textile company is wholly owned by Hong Kong investors, and is located in the Pearl River Delta, a thriving manufacturing center south of Hong Kong.

The region attracts million of migrants searching for work each year. Rights groups say labor abuses are rampant in southern China, with long hours and no overtime pay, poor safety standards, and frequent physical punishment.