Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Dispute Over Pay at a Construction Site in Shanghai

On a Friday in Shanghai nearly two weeks ago, as I left Sichuan Road North Park I noticed a gathering of people alongside Hengshui Road.

There were raised voices and, at times, multiple police cars.

As I approached, I noticed a banner on an entrance to a construction site which indicated migrant workers were complaining the "ruthless company" hadn't paid them. Numerous disputes like this occur all over China, but it is not something I often come across unexpectedly.

After observing for a few minutes, somebody in the crowd yelled "look, a foreigner is taking photos!" Based on the tone of voice, I assumed the person wanted to implicitly use my presence as a point of leverage: you are embarrassing yourselves or China. Whatever the case, I wasn't sure where this might lead, and I decided it was a grand time to move on. I was rather hungry anyway.

When I passed by two hours later, the crowd was gone but not the banner or the two wreaths of flowers commonly used for funerals in China.

two Chinese funeral wreaths and banner with "黑心公司:还我农民工血汗钱" on an entrance to a construction site in Shanghai

My guess is the police helped to broker an agreement that the workers would end their public gathering if the company agreed to leave up the display. Perhaps other concessions were made as well. Perhaps the situation will be resolved.

Perhaps not.

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