An executive was beaten to death on Friday as 3,000 steel workers threatened with job cuts protested following the takeover of their company in Tonghua, Jilin province.
Jianlong Steel Holding Company representative Chen Guojun was killed at a facility run by Tonghua Iron and Steel Group, in northeast China's old industrial heartland.
The brawl broke out after Tonghua workers were told to expect job losses during a meeting with a delegation from Jianlong Steel, a privately owned firm based in Beijing.
It was the second time Jianlong had launched a takeover bid for the State giant and many feared the company planned to drain State assets before following up with cost-cutting measures, including redundancies.
"Employees (many of whom are shareholders) are close to enjoying financial gains as the price of steel continues to rise," said a police officer that identified herself only as Wang.
"Then, Chen disillusioned workers and provoked them by saying most of them would be laid off in three days.
"Chen, saying that a total number of 30,000 employees would be cut to 5,000, infuriated the crowd."
The angry steel workers beat Chen and then blocked ambulances, police and government officers from reaching him. He is believed to have died in the midst of the steel workers at 8 pm Friday.
"Chen, the manager, did not deserve to be killed. Unfortunately, he was targeted after unleashing the anger of the furious crowd," said Wang.