Teacher’s protests in Guangdong Province violently dispersed

From 1 to 3 December, more than 800 teachers, mainly community teachers , gathered in front of the municipal government offices in Leizhou, Guangdong. The protestors were graduates from local teacher-training colleges and tertiary-level institutes and were demanding that the government fulfill the promise it made to them in 2000 - namely to transfer them into the higher paid classification of public teachers. [Throughout China it was announced in 2000 that the authorities would phase out the dual classification of teachers and retrain low paid community teachers transforming them into public teachers – in most places, this promise was not fulfilled].

According to the protestors, the protest was led by the classroom teacher-training officials. One local teacher told CLB that the teachers’ representatives had brought along loud-hailers to inspire and lead the crowd when the local mayor and the education department chief came to talk with the protestors. Another teacher interviewed by CLB, confirmed reports that the police had caused one pregnant protestor to miscarry during the violent dispersal of the protestors on 3 December.

A teacher from Leigao town in Leizhou City, told CLB that his wife, a community teacher, had not received wages for a 12 month period – since June 2003. The teacher added that this was common and indeed all of those who had become teachers since 2000, as well as all temporary teachers, had not received wages for the last 12 months. He also informed CLB of the sharp distinction between public teachers and community teachers in Leizhou. For example, a public teacher like him, who started teaching in 1991, earns some 900 Yuan after insurance deductions every month, however, his wife, who also started working in 1991 as a community teacher, earns only 250 Yuan.

Another teacher told CLB that after three days of successive protests, the municipal government agreed to hold a recruitment examination for the city’s 1,060 teachers from teacher-training colleges and tertiary-level institutes. However, the leaders of the protest - namely the classroom officials - were told by the municipal government that they would be punished in retaliation for the protests and would not be employed [as public teachers] even if they passed the examination.

When asked if they were willing to take legal action under the Labour Law in pursuit of their claims, a teacher informed CLB that although they all knew the government was violating the law, they dared not take the government to court. They said that if they took legal action they would upset the government and the education department which has the final say in deciding a teacher’s employment. Nobody was willing to stick their job on the line and file a lawsuit. The teachers said that even the protest leaders, who were already targets of government retaliation would not take legal action against the government until the examination was over.

In October 2003, the teachers had also protested to the local authorities. However, they dispersed after officials told them it had insufficient funds and had asked them to be patient. After this initial protest, community teachers and other teachers who had graduated from teacher-training colleges and tertiary-level institutes, were each given 300 Yuan every month backdated from July 2003. However, temporary teachers were not covered in the new agreement.

When CLB tried to obtain statements from the local authorities on the case, government officials refused to confirm the reports of the protesting teacher’s miscarriage and also refused to answer any questions concerning the alleged wage arrears.

For more information on education in China and the divisions between teachers in China please see Teachers and education in China - underfunded and undervaluedfor links to reports, research and cases.

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