The Jianrong Suitcase Factory in Dongguan, Guangdong closed without warning, and gave its workers only 60% of promised October-December wages. William Foreman of the Associated Press reports on the ensuing riot:
On Friday morning, riot police with helmets and shields were called in and sealed off the factory compound, blocking the workers, who live in dormitories inside, from leaving. The plan appeared to be to keep them from protesting outside the factory until they collected their final wages and left for the holiday.
But by noon, about 100 workers got fed up and marched out of the factory. They were led by a short, stocky worker named Dai Houxue, who chanted, “There are no human rights here!” as he pushed away the arm of a policeman who tried to restrain him.
“They have been trying to lock us up in the factory because they don’t want us to come out and have the international media cover our protest,” Dai said.
The scene challenged the popular stereotype of Chinese migrant workers as being simple country folk, subservient to officialdom and great at “eating bitterness” — enduring hardship without complaint. In fact, for many, factory work is a mind-opening experience that exposes them to protest tactics and concepts like labor rights.