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Plant Party chief fired after unrest

AUTHORITIES in northern China's Hebei Province fired the Party boss of a local textile factory after more than 1,000 workers went on a protest march over privatization, job cuts and other grievances.

The removal of Wang Lijuan from the position of Party secretary of the Yimian Group, was announced by Lan Baoliang, head of the organization department of the Baoding City Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), at a workers rally yesterday morning.

Wang was replaced by Zhang Yanru, chief of the Baoding City State Assets Commission. The board of directors also suspended her job as its chairwoman.

On Friday more than 1,000 workers of the group headed off a 140-kilometer march to Beijing to protest the company's management.

The workers were stopped near Xushui County by government officials, who convinced them to return to Baoding on buses early on Saturday.

The Yimian Group - which grew from the Baoding No. 1 Cotton Textile Factory, founded in 1994 - was once among the top 50 textile companies in China. The state-owned company was sold to Hong Kong-based Yafang Group in January 2004.

The new owner promised to inject US$50 million into the company and properly handle its employees. Those promises were not kept, said Baoding Vice Mayor Liu Baoling.

On March 27 some Yimian Group workers complained to the company and the Baoding City Government about 400 job cuts and poor treatment. They also said the group always paid their wages a month late. Since then Liu said he had been interviewing workers about the problems.

Liu admitted problems in the privatization and said: "The government will work together with the workers to press the Hong Kong investor to fulfill its responsibilities. We will try the best to solve the problems via negotiations. But if it has to be solved in the court the government will bear the fees."

He said it's wrong for workers to be paid a month late.

Officials from the departments for disciplinary inspection, public security and the procuratorate went to Yimian to make further investigations on Friday.


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