Last Friday, privately-owned firm Jianlong Heavy Machinery was planning to take over the state-owned Tonghua Iron and Steel Group.
But according to the official China Daily, Jianlong manager Chen Guojun provoked the workers when he told them that the total number of employees would be slashed from 30,000 to 5,000 once the merger went through.
He was beaten to death by workers who also clashed with police and blocked medical workers from rescuing him. No one has been arrested yet.
According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 30,000 workers took part in the protest and several hundred were injured. But China Daily put the figure at 3,000 workers and the state Xinhua news agency cited just 1,000.