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Short-Lived Strike Reflects Strength of Japan-China Ties

Workers interviewed Sunday said they would be happy with a union affiliated with the government-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions, as required by law. "It looks like we will get one pretty soon," said Hai Li, 24, who came to work here from Henan five years ago.

But one worker who helped organize the strike said the Uniden employees wanted to elect their own union leaders, not just accept people named by management or the government. An official at the Bao An District Labor Bureau, which has jurisdiction over the Uniden complex on the western fringe of Shenzhen, said that sounded like a call for an independent union, something China prohibits.


Hai Li, 24, a five-year veteran at the Uniden plant in Shenzhen, is hopeful a trade union will be allowed soon. (Edward Cody -- The Washington Post)

"These workers wanted to have their own trade union and elect their own delegates," said the official, who identified herself only as Wang. "You think this will work out? Of course not. They tried to set up their trade union without instructions from the upper-level trade union. It didn't follow the procedure."

The organizer, who declined to be identified for fear of trouble with the police, said workers have been promised that the original schedule for a union in July is back on track. But a personnel executive at Uniden, reached by telephone, would not confirm that. "We are doing everything according to the government," he repeated several times without giving his name.

The government's policy was made clear to Uniden workers on a large poster glued to a wall near the factory entrance with "Public Notice" printed on top and the red star-shaped seal of "Bao An District Labor Bureau" on the bottom. Workers should immediately call off the strike in the interests of social harmony and stability, it said, echoing President Hu Jintao's repeated appeals for a "harmonious society."

"Those who fail to comply will be subject to penalty as stated in the labor law," the poster warned.

"The strike is over," concluded a worker who identified himself only as Liang, one of dozens strolling down the dusty lanes lined with tiny shops that surround Uniden's landscaped compound near the Shenzhen airport.

"But workers have gone back to work reluctantly," he added. "The problems will not be really solved until the company honors its promises. The company said we will get a pay rise in July. I think many workers will be happy if this comes true."

Researcher Jin Ling in Beijing contributed to this report.


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