During the past two years, these unlikely agitators — conservatively attired but fiercely determined — have staged similar public protests in Beijing and provincial cities. They have stormed branch offices to mount sit-ins. A few of the more foolhardy have met at Tiananmen Square to distribute fliers before plainclothes police officers snatched them away.
Strategizing via online message boards and text messages, they speak in code and frequently change cellphone numbers. Their acts of defiance are never mentioned in state-run news media.
According to one organizer, a scrappy former bank teller named Wu Lijuan, there are at least 70,000 people seeking to regain their old jobs or receive monetary compensation, a sizable wedge of the 400,000 who were laid off during a decade-long purge.
…For a government determined to maintain social harmony, the protests and petitioning are vexing. Compared with farmers angry over seized land or retired soldiers seeking fatter pensions, the bank workers — educated, organized and knowledgeable about the Internet — are better equipped to outsmart the public security agents constantly on their trail.