Free the detained labour activists. Let them go home for New Year.
Starting from July 2018, a series of collective actions has broken out as workers at Jasic Technology decided to organise their own union to safeguard their rights. At the moment of writing, 53 people are behind bars because of their involvement with or support for Jasic workers, including sympathetic students or graduates, NGOs' workers or unionists at the grassroots level. At the same time, Chinese Government detained five labour activists on 20 January 2019. Details are not yet known, but it is reported that two of them would be charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order”
Jasic Workers' struggle to organise their union has been closely watched by the international community. On 31 January 2019, 33 representatives from labour and human rights organizations in South Korea launched a protest in front of the Chinese embassy, urging the Chinese Government to immediately release workers, students and activists involved in the Jasic case. Though Jasic workers' struggle was short-lived, as their supporting group's home was raided by police on 24 August 2018, the repression against their supporters has never stopped. Marxist groups in various universities were harassed or cracked down by their schools and the authority, students and workers of NGOs who showed support to workers were detained and the government shows no sign to halt.
On 20 January, Jian Hui, Zhang Zhiru, Song Jiahui, He Yuancheng and Wu Guijun were separately detained in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Changsha. Until now, it is no official explanation of their detention, but two of them have been officially charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” and put under criminal detention. Except He Yuancheng, all detainees were not allowed to meet with lawyers, their families continue to get harassed or threatened by the authority.
This year's Lunar New Year Eve fell on 4 February and traditionally, families gather together to celebrate. However, these righteous women and men have been taken away from their families on such an important occasion. Thus, HKCTU and other labour organisations marched in the new year market in Victoria Park, with placards of some detainees' photos, to raise the awareness of the public and to demand the immediate release of these activists. The march-participants visited the booths of some political parties and organisations and got support from some visitors. After the march, the participants read out their statement, the names of the detained university students, labour organizations and front-line-union workers. Such a name list shows that the Chinese Government is carrying out a comprehensive crackdown against labour activists, the same approach it took in December 2015, in detaining labour activists in Guangdong Province.
China is facing an economic downturn in recent years, with more and more labour disputes breaking out. Chinese Government should have faced up to the issue, respected workers' freedom of association and right to strike, punished employers who violated labour rights, instead of detaining labour activists and their supporters. The Chinese Government must immediately release the labour activists and the supporters of the Jasic workers, safeguard workers' freedom of association and stop repressing workers when they are defending their rights.