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Two Women Killed In China Steel Protests

    Labor Rights Now expressed deep concern about reports riot police in China killed two women protesters during a crackdown over demonstrations involving layoffs without compensation at the Chongqing Steel Plant.

    Three worker leaders were arrested and another 24 activists were injuring, according to Radio Free Asia.

    Workers began protests after several thousand lost jobs when Chongqing Steel claimed bankruptcy in August 2005. Laid-off steelworkers there demanded payment of 2,000 Yuan (about $250) each as severance.

    On August 12 about 2,000 laid-off workers blocked a highway in Chongqing to highlight their claims that the firm's problems were related to corruption by management, including the sale of factory land for about 40 million Yuan (about $5 million) less than market value.

    Workers planned a series of protests in early October 2005. One action was set for October 10 outside the venue of the Asian-Pacific Mayors' Summit that was hosted by Chongqing.

    Authorities reportedly decided to launch a preemptive attack on the workers on October 7 during a sit-in outside the Chongqing municipal government headquarters called to protest the detention of eight leaders, according to the South China Morning Post.

    Radio Free Asia reported that about 200 police arrived between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. and several men believed to be plainclothes officers then overturned two police vehicles. About 200 anti-riot police then arrived and began beating and kicking the workers, according to the China Labour Bulletin, which said the dead included two women, ages 70 and 50.

    "Labor Rights Now cannot independently verify these reports, but finds them credible given the frequent crackdowns in similar situations in China when workers have protested the failure to receive wages and benefits owed them by companies that have been privatized or closed," LRN said in a letter to Hu Jintao, president of the People's Republic of China.

    "We strongly urge a full and complete investigation of the reports of the Chongqing Steel Plant killings and hope the arrested worker activists will be released promptly."

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