Officers use electric batons while trying to free a factory boss being held hostage Hundreds of military police clashed with protesting workers from a bankrupt state-owned arms factory in Chengdu, Sichuan province, last week, leaving at least one in critical condition and many others injured. Two workers approached by the South China Morning Post confirmed the clash, reported on the Boxun website, had occurred. The incident in Shiling township, Longquanyi district, is the latest in a spate of conflicts between civilians and military police that have taken place against a backdrop of growing social unrest. It also highlights the plight of workers when state-owned enterprises go bankrupt and are privatised. The Boxun report said 1,300 military police entered Shiling and tried to save the factory boss, who was taken hostage by disgruntled employees on Wednesday night. It said the boss was planning to sell the 300 million yuan factory at a discounted 80 million yuan. Government compensation of 200 million yuan for workers to be laid off had also been held up. Sources said the workers were holding the factory boss as a bargaining chip in their negotiations to buy up the facilities and continue operations. The clashes started when thousands of workers prevented military police from rescuing the boss. Over the course of two hours, police surrounded the factory, turned off street lights, blockaded crossroads, and attacked workers and passersby with electric batons. The report said at least one person was left in a critical condition and many other workers were injured. The exact number of victims could not be confirmed. The fate of the boss was not mentioned in the report. Shiling township police yesterday directed inquiries to Chengdu police, saying they had not heard about the incident. The Chengdu police propaganda office could not be reached for comment. The No354 Factory has been operating for about 40 years, employing about 3,000 workers, and providing support such as education and medical benefits to their 8,000 family members. It has been undergoing liquidation since September. Workers wanted to use their government compensation, which was still under negotiation, to buy the factory, one worker said. Last month, a substantial number of workers agreed to pool their payouts to fund the buyback. However, the boss disagreed. Many arms factories have faced a similar fate since former president Jiang Zemin ordered the military in 1998 to surrender its sprawling commercial empire and sever its business ties as part of a crackdown on corruption. Protests from workers over inadequate compensation and back pay following the privatisation of state firms have been rife on the mainland.