In July, dozens of former employees of the Agricultural Bank of China put on t-shirts saying ‘Protect the Rights of Downsized Bank Workers’. Within minutes, they were swept into five police vans and removed.
A few days before the protest, the ABC had gone public, raising 22 billion dollar. As Chinese banks are increasingly subjected to market discipline, large numbers of bank workers are being laid off, those who are over 40 first. They have no independent trade union to represent them. After losing their jobs, they may be forced to live off their elderly parents. Dozens of laid-off bank workers would have committed suicide.
Others protest against their fate. Well-educated, organised and Internet-savvy, they pose more of a threat to the authorities than protesting farmers or soldiers.
“What the government fears most are people capable of organizing, and the bank workers have discovered their power,” a human rights activist told the New York Times. “The sad thing is that they’re not going to succeed because the more organized you are, the more harsh the government’s reaction.”