Chinese Government: Repression as the Only Answer to Labour Resistance

Starting from the beginning of 2019, labour activists in Southern China have been facing a new round of repression. The Chinese Government launched a cross-provincial detention, taking away five labour activists, Wu Guijun, Jian Hui, He Yuancheng, Song Jiahui and Zhang Zhiru in Changsha, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. As most of the detainees were disallowed to meet with their lawyers in the past month, very limited information is known.

There are signs that this round of detention is indeed a replica of the mass detention on 3 December 2015, targeting labour activists in Shenzhen. On that day, more than 30 workers at labour organizations in Southern China were detained. Afterwards, staff members of Panyu Migrant Workers Centre were charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” and sentenced.

Wu Guijun was once detained for his involvement in a furniture factory Diweixin, after 13 months of detention, he was finally freed as there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him. It is believed that he would be charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” this time, but he has not been allowed to see his lawyer.

Zhang Zhiru is the founder of Shenzhen Chunfeng Labour Dispute Service Department (hereafter: Chunfeng) and Jian Hui used to work there. The organization was founded in 2005, to provide workers with labour law consultation and assist workers to safeguard their rights. In 2012, many labour organizations were forced to move out from their offices and Chunfeng was one of them. In 2014, when Jian Hui went to Dongguan to investigate the labour dispute in Yueyuen Shoe Factory, he was shortly detained.

Song Jiahui was elected as a workers' representative when the strike in Lide Shoe Factory broke out in 2014 in Shenshen. The labour dispute lasted for 10 months and three strikes broke out, starting from August 2014. Eventually the factory gave in, repaid workers' social insurance premium and paid them severance compensation. Song later became a staff member in Chunfeng, to assist other workers in fighting for their rights.  

This round of detention has hit Chunfeng enormously. In fact, since the mass detention in 2015, the labour organizations in Southern China have been keeping a low profile.

However, the repression does not help resolving labour conflicts: in May 2018. crane operators in China launched a national strike; food delivery workers keep on struggling; in July 2018, workers at Jasic Technology faced repression from the official trade union, their employer and police, when they wanted to organize their own trade union.

Labour conflicts are deepening in China and the Chinese Government continues to answer them with repression. Until now, more than 50 students, workers and labour activists, including staff members of labour organizations and community trade