Women demand boost to benefits
William Kazer in Urumqi
Hundreds of wives and mothers of oil workers have been protesting for the past two weeks in the city of Karamay, Xinjiang province, calling on the Government to increase their living allowance and medical insurance.
One city official said yesterday the women presented three demands late last month to the city's Government and the management bureau of the city's state oil company.
They are seeking an increase in the workers' living allowance from 100 yuan (HK$93) to 200 yuan, an increase in their medical allowance, and the upgrading of their status from that of 'family workers' to 'collective workers', which would mean a pension increase.
On August 1, the Government of Karamay, northwest of the provincial capital of Urumqi, said it could not meet their demands. The next day, hundreds of women protested at the oil management bureau, about 100 metres from the Government's offices. By August 10, their numbers had swollen to almost 1,000.
According to an account published on the Internet, it was the first spontaneous public demonstration in Karamay, with protesters shouting slogans such as 'down with corruption', 'down with bribery' and 'we must survive'.
But the city official said the Government worked hard to persuade the women to stop protesting. Yesterday morning, 200 were still holding a sit-in outside the Government's offices.