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Urban construction sites provoked pneumoconiosis crisis in Shuangxi Village, Hunan, China

Hundreds of migrant workers who contributed to the urbanisation process in Shenzhen got contracted with pneumoconiosis. They are on a hard road to protest for compensations and justice.


From the 1990s till early 2000s, several hundred villagers from around Leiyang in the central province of Hunan made the 500-kilometre journey south to work in the construction sites of Shenzhen. They worked day in, day out, drilling blast-holes into the bedrock and establishing the foundations for many of the city’s best-known skyscrapers. They laboured in dangerous, poorly ventilated caverns with little or no protection from the heavy, lung-clogging dust created by their drills. They endured this hardship primarily because the pay was good and they were completely unaware of just how debilitating the long-term effects of inhaling rock dust would be. Crucially, neither the building contractors nor the local authorities made any attempt to inform the workers about the hazards inherent in their jobs. In 1999, several workers started to complain of exhaustion, and repeated bouts of influenza. Their strength declined and many returned home to Leiyang. In 2002, the first of 16 workers from the villages died of pneumoconiosis. [1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Urban construction sites provoked pneumoconiosis crisis in Shuangxi Village, Hunan, China
State or province:Hunan/Guangdong
Location of conflict:Daozi Town of Leiyang County/Shenzhen
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Cement
real estates
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Pneumoconiosis is a chronic respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of mineral dust over a long period of time. The buildup of dust leads to inflammation and fibrosis of the lungs. Sufferers initially complain of coughing, shortness of breath and influenza-like symptoms. As the disease progresses to stage two and the final stage three, victims lose their strength and eventually all ability to work. In the vast majority of cases, the disease is fatal. [16]

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Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:1999
Relevant government actors:-Shenzhen Municipal Government
-Shenzhen Municipal Party Committee
-Leiyang Country Government
-Shenzhen Prevention and Treatment Centre for Occupational Diseases
-Leiyang Municipal Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs
-Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Labour and Social Insurance
-Shenzhen Municipal Intermediate People’s Court
-Bureau of Labour and Social Security(Shenzhen)
-Department try of Health(Shenzhen)
-Police Security Bureau(Shenzhen)
-the Office of the Shenzhen Party Secretary
-Shenzhen Municipal Bureau for Letters and Visits
-Yinhu Rescue Station
-a Joint Ad-hoc Working Group was formed by representatives of the Housing and Construction Bureau, Ministry of Health, the Bureau of Labour and Social Security, the Police Security Bureau, and the Administration of Work Safety.
-Ministry of Labour and Social Security
-The Ministry of Health
-The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security
-Vice Prime Li Keqiang and Zhang Dejiang
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Love Save Pneumoconiosis (大爱清尘)
-College Student Investigation Group on Labour Rights of Construction Workers (大学生建筑工关注小组; abbr: Student Investigation Group).
-Mr. Zhou, a reporter at Xiaoxiang Morning Herald (潇湘晨报)
-Prof. Shen Yuan of Tsinghua University and five other scholars
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases, Deaths
Potential: Accidents
Other Health impactsphysical pain and suffers
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactseconomic burdens from disability to work and medical treatments, psychological pressure for many reasons
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Institutional changes
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The suffering from physical pain, the economic hardship, the psychological frustration of “life failure” and the loss of lives would never be justly compensated.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] China Labour Bulletin. (2010). The hard road: seeking justice for victims of pneumoconiosis in China. China Labour Bulletin Research Report (accessed on 30-09-2018).
[click to view]

[3] Fan, L., & Ng, K. T. F. (2019). Non-legalistic activism from the social margin: Informal workers with pneumoconiosis in Shenzhen. China Information, 0920203X18784799.
[click to view]

[8] Tears of Shuangxi Village - Documentary on pneumoconiosis (accessed on 30-05-2019)
[click to view]

[17] National Health Commission. (2015). 2014全国职业病报告情况National occupational disease report 2014. (accessed on 20-09-2017)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[10] The Beijing News. Hunan Leiyang Silicosis Village Investigation: Numerous Painful Suicides. (accessed on 30-09-2018)
[click to view]

[11] Lung disease deaths haunt Hunan towns (accessed on 30-09-2018)
[click to view]

[18] Black lung disease worries workers (accessed on 30-09-2018)
[click to view]

[4]于建嵘:尽职尽责之前政府应少谈人道关怀(accessed on 30-09-2018).
[click to view]

[6]深圳百余民工查职业病遭拒续:20项申诉已立案(accessed on 30-09-2018).
[click to view]

[15] [email protected] (accessed on 30-05-2019)
[click to view]

[9]双喜村的眼泪:尘肺工人的生与死 (accessed on 30-09-2018)
[click to view]

[7]湖南耒阳籍尘肺工人曲折索赔路 (accessed on 30-09-2018).
[click to view]

[13] Leiyang workers return to Shenzhen to demand long overdue compensation (accessed on 30-05-2019)
[click to view]

[5]百余民工疑患尘肺病续:仅几人被认定劳动关系 (accessed on 30-09-2018)
[click to view]

[16] Wikipedia on Pneumoconiosis (accessed on 30-09-2018)
[click to view]

[2]深圳近百名农民工疑患尘肺病(组图) (accessed on 30-09-2018).
[click to view]

[14] Dying for China’s economic miracle: migrant workers ravaged by lung disease, fighting to pay for their funerals (accessed on 30-05-2019)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[12] 大爱清尘 Love Save Pnemoconiosis
[click to view]

Inside China: the disease killing the men who built Shenzhen, and their struggle for justice
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice, ICTA-UAB
Last update18/06/2019
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