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Angered over job cutbacks, workers take protest walk

A PROTEST march involving more than 1,000 people was heading to Beijing yesterday from a town 140 kilometers away to petition the government over job losses at a textile company.

The protesters, traveling on foot and by bicycle, set out from Baoding City in Hebei Province from the company, Hebei Baoding Yimian Group Co Ltd, at 8am and did not stop when officials and police tried to persuade them to turn back.

They planned to petition the government over the company's restructuring plan, said a protester who refused to be named.

Government officials and police met the crowd on the road at around 11am to try to persuade them to return home, but the protesters kept walking and the officials were following the crowd.

Most of protesters stopped at around 8pm and began talks with two vice mayors from Baoding after walking more than 30 kilometers.

The state-owned textile company was sold to Hong Kong-based China Strategic Holdings Ltd in 2004, according to the Baoding Daily newspaper. The company's five-year restructuring process had been tumultuous, an official said.

The contracts of 400 employees expired at the end of March and will not be renewed, according to the official. Additional employees could also face job loss, the official said.

The 400 gathered other workers to protest, and they held talks with company executives and city government officials on Wednesday.

The protesters told the vice mayors that the company had suspended their employment for a week and they wanted to return to work. They also demanded payment of their pension contributions, which they said had not been paid since 2004.

Vice Mayor Li Qian told the protesters that they would "definitely receive satisfying answers."

About 100 protesters returned on buses provided by the local government. Others sat by the side of the road and had dinner.


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