Massive protests erupt China megacity Chongqing

The unrest began when Zybio suddenly laid off nearly 8,000 employees, according to workers interviewed by the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times. The employees were notified that they could leave for the Chinese New Year, which is still two weeks away, effectively ending their employment.

Zybio is a leading manufacturer of in vitro diagnostic reagents and equipment based in the Dadukou District of Chongqing, according to the company’s website. Many of those laid off had been recruited by Zybio last year to meet an urgent demand for tests under China’s zero-COVID policies.

That demand did not materialize, as China abandoned the three-year-long measures abruptly in early December, ending massive mandatory PCR testing. The halting of mandatory testing hit the pharmaceutical manufacturer hard.

Layoffs Were the Last Straw

Xiaodong (pseudonym), a Zybio worker, confirmed to the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times that the protests were sparked by the company’s abrupt layoffs.

The last three years have seen Chongqing—which has a population of over 30 million—battered by lockdowns, November’s massive protests, and December’s COVID-19 surge. Coming shortly before the Chinese New Year, the sudden layoffs were the last straw for many workers.

Speaking with The Epoch Times on Jan. 7, Xiaodong accused Zybio of not keeping its promises.

The company told us to leave, but it didn’t tell us when to come back and if it would pay us our wages,” Xiaodong said.

According to Xiaodong, in addition to higher wages, Zybio had promised a 3,000 yuan (about $438) bonus to workers who would work for the company before and after the Chinese New Year.

Xiaodong, who began working for the company in June, believed that it had a large order at the beginning of December and recruited 6,000 to 7,000 workers at that time.