Published: 12/12/2002

Thirty coal miners have paid with their lives for the lack of essential workplace health and safety measures, resulting in large part from the absence of independent and legitimate trade unions in China, something the regime continues to refuse to permit. On December 6, 2002, a fire ripped through an illegal single-shaft coal mine in Taonan City in the northeastern province of Jilin, trapping 30 miners underground.

The state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), whose officials are appointed by mine management, has cooperated with state officials in physically isolating the victims’ families from their community rather than supporting collective action to tackle the issues of compensation, wage arrears and the lack of elemental health and safety regulations.

Workers at other mine shafts belonging to the company are currently involved in unofficial strike action for the payment of back wages, for which they have been unsuccessfully petitioning state authorities, in some cases dating back to 1995.