Labour News

 

Guangdong labour activist, Meng Han, is again taken away by the authorities today (22/9) after being released from prison just earlier this month.  According to reports, 8 policemen from the Guangzhou Nansha Jinzhou Police Station took away Meng Han from his apartment at around 2:30 p.m.  Although the cause of his arrest has yet to be confirmed, but it is believed that it is related to the publication of his “Prison Notebooks” posted on his own blog, which is now deleted by the officials.

 

In his “Notebooks”, Meng recollects his experiences in organizing the Lide Strike of 2014, which led to his subsequently arrest and imprisonment.  He also expressed his views on the labour movement and his will to fight for workers' rights in China.  Thus, the HKCTU is astounded to learn that the Chinese Government again arrested Meng Han for a crime he never commits and demands the immediate release of him.

 

Updated on 26/9:

After about 6 hours of detention at the local police station, Meng was later released on the same night. The Police alleged that his arrest was due to his release of "Prison Notebooks".  Meng was slightly injured in a bust-up with the police.

 

  

Factory “Shammed” Bankruptcy, 300 Electronics Factory Workers Went on Strike in Shenzhen

20

Sep 2017

 

Last month (August 2017), more than 300 workers from the Shenzhen mobile phone motherboard manufacturer, Jielai Technology Co., Ltd. went on strike to recover back wages from the month of June, but the company suddenly announced bankruptcy in 29 August. Hence, the worker escalated their actions. In addition to recover outstanding wages, they also demanded for statutory severance payment, and guarded the factory to prevent transfer of assets by the company.

 

The Jielai workers criticized the bankruptcy is of "malicious" intent because the employer has already set up factories in Yunnan, Chongqing and Zhengzhou and more than half of the production lines in Shenzhen have moved to these plants ever since. Moreover, Jielai were not lacking in orders from their major customer, "Waterworth", an up and coming mobile phone company founded in 2009. Therefore, the workers believed that the employer “shammed” the bankruptcy to hide the real intention in plant relocation in order to evade paying the workers severance payments.

 

On 4 September, the court seized the assets of the employer and forced the employer to negotiate with the workers. A settlement was eventually reached with the employer promised to pay all the wages in arrears and 60% of the statutory severance payments.

 

 

In order to reduce labor costs, many manufacturers in the Pearl River Delta Region are transferring productions to further inland in recent years. But some unscrupulous employers have tried to avoid payments of severance for workers in the past, which is similar to that of the Hong Kong's catering industry some ten years ago. After dissolving one restaurant, some restaurant owners continued to operate other restaurants under separate company registrations, leaving severance payment for workers eventually paid off by the "Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund" (the Fund). In 2012, a restaurant owner was sentenced to three years' of imprisonment after found guilty in fraud of the Fund. Therefore, if local governments in China do not face up to this problem by severely punishing employers that “sham” bankruptcies, it is likely that similar incidents will continue to occur.

Tough Guy Meng Han is Released from Prison

05

Sep 2017

 

On September 3, after 21 months of imprisonment, labour activist Meng Han is set free again.

 

Since Xi Jinping came to power, Chinese civil society and activists are experiencing a very difficult period.  Earlier this year, the treatment and death of Liu Xiaobo shocked the world.  But almost at the same time, rights defending lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, who has been beaten on a number of occasions was forced to plead guilty and sentenced.  Thus, it is not surprising that even the toughest guys fell one after another to the terrors of torture and threats to their love ones. A year ago in Guangdong, there was another tough guy who was forced to plead guilty to a crime he never committed, he name is Meng Han.

 

In 2013, Meng participated in a collective labour action with other security guards in the No.1 Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and was elected as the “chief representative” in the negotiation with the management. However, he was then dismissed and along with 17 other workers, he was sentenced to nine-month imprisonment on charges of “Inciting a crowd to disrupt public order”. At his defence speech in court, he insisted, “As a worker in contemporary China, I would prefer to spend the rest of my life in prison if the rights to decent work is deprived,” and after his release, he proclaimed, “the government must stop its abuse of power to suppress labour rights defending, and we must sacrifice for the cause of rights defending.  I am prepared for this sacrifice.”

 

Upon his release, Meng Han joined the Panyu Migrant Workers Services Centre to continue his fight for labour rights and successfully helped more than 3,000 workers in defending their rights in the Guangzhou Lide Shoe Factory Strike.  However, what lay ahead of him was another arrest and prosecution.  On December 3, 2017, he was one of the 27 labour activists in Guangzhou being arrested and detained.  And among the four who were later sentenced, Meng Han was the last one to be trailed because he was the most "troubled" one.  After his arrest, Meng said, "As my case is not going to be resolved in the near future, I have no intention to compromise with them (the officials) on my conscience and morality." "In this case, I have a clear conscience."  In fact, Meng Han’s determination remained resolute until his parents were intimidated, his companions were under surveillance and loved one was harassed.  Meng was forced to compromise and pleaded guilty and was finally sentenced to 21 months in prison.  But this would not tarnish our respect for him, nor would it tarnish his image as a labour rights defender.

We Are Sold As “Pigs”—A Testimony of A Chinese Migrant Worker Under The “Belt and Road” Initiative

03

Sep 2017

 

As a top Chinese national policy, the "Belt and Road" Initiative is not only exporting capital, technology, and labour on a large scale, but also transplanting common labour disputes of domestic enterprises to overseas in recent years. In an article published on August 24, "Voice of America" interviewed a Chinese migrant worker working in Africa, Li Dong (pseudonym), who witnesses the hardships endured by overseas Chinese migrant workers.

 

Motivated by the ideals to "achieve something big in a foreign country under the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative” university graduate Li Dong, followed the state-owned enterprise Energy China Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau (GHCB) to work in Angola one year ago. But unfortunately, contrary to his ideals, there is a world of difference in reality.

 

During the year working for GHCB, Li Dong only received his pay cheque once and it only accounted to 40% of the normal salary as stated in his employment contract. Li further testifies that workers are forced to work 12 hours a day with no overtime pay and only allowed one rest day every two weeks. Days off are not given neither on Chinese nor local holidays, except two days of holidays on Chinese New Year. Moreover, the GHCB also refuses to pay medical insurance on the grounds that the company has bought overseas accident insurance for the employees, which no one has ever seen the policy. And cases of arrears of wages are common despite GHCB is a state owned enterprise. For instance, Li Dong reveals that he heard some workers organized protest after they have not been paid for more three years, and although they were able to recover their wages, all workers who participated in the protest were eventually repatriated.

 

In addition to long hours and intensive workloads, personal safety of the workers are also constantly under threat. Chinese are often targeted in a number of robberies or killings since the end of the Angolan civil war in 2002. Thus, the company prohibits employees from leaving their quarters after work, which makes little difference from living in a prison. Nevertheless, some workers are still robbed on working sites, while all losses must be borne by the workers themselves.

 

Despite feeling "disappointed, angry, and want to resign", Li Dong plans to continue to work in Angola for another half a year. Because the company will not reimburse the air fare and visa fee until one year and half of employment.

 

"We are like the pigs in the past and being exploited here," says Li Dong, referring to the Chinese labourers who had signed slave contracts to work as coolie overseas during the turn of 20th Century, "the difference is that instead of the white people of past, the exploiters nowadays are the state-owned enterprises.”

 

Source: Voice of America

Liu Xiaobo: A Lifelong Fighter for Democracy, May His Soul Rest in Peace

15

Jul 2017

 

Tonight (15/7/2017), we are deeply grieved to mourn the tragic death of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo. But sadness cannot conceal our anger towards the regime of the Chinese Communist Party. As an intellectual, Liu was arrested and sentenced to 11 years in prison for proposing constitutional reform, human rights and democracy. Liu lost his freedom, and eventually, dedicated his life just because he had the courage to speak up his mind. In 2010, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize dispute huge pressure from the Chinese Government. The empty chair and his photo in the ceremony is still a memorable scene until today.

 

7 years after the ceremony, Liu Xiaobo was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in prison. Although the government officials claimed that monthly health checks were carried out in prison, Liu’s health was still allowed to deteriorate to a state that was untreatable. Should his disease to be treated adequately in an earlier stage, Liu Xiaobo’s untimely death may have been avoided.

 

Liu Xiaobo once said ‘I have no enemy’, but he was supressed by the regime that treated him as an enemy, resulting to a tragic end to his respectable life. In his final stages of life, the Communist Party still refused Liu’s request to choose the methods and locations of medical treatment of his own will.

 

 

As his death has become irreversible, we must now turn our attention to the condition of his wife, Liu Xia, who has been put under house arrest since the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo. In light of the experiences that family members of Li Wangyang’s had to put up with after Li’s death, it is conceivable that Liu Xia will be subjected to further hardship and surveillance in future. The Communist regime must stop the house arrest put on Liu Xia, and ensure her freedom will not be obstructed.

 

The Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorship seems to be indissoluble at the moment, but we will not give up. We will be even more persistent to fight for democracy in the future, because we believe that only persistence will bring success.

 

May Liu Xiaobo’s soul rest in peace.

As Saipan Casino Opens, Migrant Construction Workers Still Fighting for Wages & Injury Compensations

10

Jul 2017

 

July 10, 2017

 

The casino is scheduled to open [soon] and will earn Imperial Pacific millions of dollars. But neither the casino nor the companies it hired has paid us – the workers – even the minimum wage for the hours that we spent building it. This is unfair and unjust. Imperial Pacific should pay the money that we are owed. We will protest until we are paid what we have earned and the injured workers receive proper and just treatment.

 

                                        -- Protesting workers on Saipan, July 3, 2017

 

On May 16, 2017, we called on allies to demand that the Hong Kong-based Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited remedy the abusive labor conditions on its $500 million casino project in Saipan, a U.S. Commonwealth. As of July 6, the casino is now open, but the Chinese migrant workers who built it – doing grueling work for long hours under dangerous conditions – still have not been legally compensated.

 

These workers were never paid the minimum wage, and some were not paid at all. Injured workers were never taken to see a doctor, let alone compensated for their injuries. Two contractors reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor to remedy wage violations for some of their employees, but hundreds of workers still have not been paid the minimum wage or overtime.

 

Imperial Pacific engaged some of China’s largest construction contractors to build the casino on the fast and cheap. These companies include the state-run China Metallurgical Group (MCC), Nanjing Beilida New Material System Engineering, Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, and CMC Macao. There was no concern for worker safety: a federal agency fined these contractors nearly $200,000 after finding 20 serious violations of health and safety regulations, including fraudulent injury records, unguarded machines, unsecured and unsafe scaffolding, and inadequate fall protection. One worker fell 24 feet to his death because of inadequate safety precautions. The companies did not buy workers’ compensation insurance, refused to provide medical attention to workers, and have not compensated the injured workers.

 

At least 40 of these workers remain on Saipan and have been demanding legal compensation for all who labored on the site, including those who returned to China. They demonstrated outside the casino on May 25, 2017, but received no response. They protested again on June 22 and then on July 3. One contractor offered its former employees $5,000 and a plane ticket if they returned home to China. The workers refused, stating that they must all get paid.

 

It is no longer enough for Imperial Pacific to “denounce” the abuse of these workers; it must ensure that they are paid legally and treated humanely. We, therefore, demand that Imperial Pacific take immediate action to:

 

1. Reimburse the recruitment fees paid to obtain work with these contractors;

2. Compensate each hour worked according to minimum wage and overtime laws; and

3. Ensure injured workers receive medical treatment and fair compensation for the injuries suffered building the casino.

             

You Can Take Action Too:

 

 

  • Email Imperial Pacific (⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠carman.chow@imperialpacific.com) to demand that all exploited casino workers receive the pay and compensation to which they are entitled, and please CC .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on your email.

 

 

Selected Media Coverage:

 

Emily Feng, Chinese workers protest against Hong Kong casino on US island, Financial Times, July 6, 2017.

 

Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa, ‘We will protest until we get paid’, Marianas Variety, July 4, 2017.

 

Video: 仍有四十多名中国工人被困塞班岛, 美国之音, 2017年6月30日。

 

Erwin Encinares, Workers say processing taking too long, Saipan Tribune, June 23 2017.

 

被困塞班島中國工人獲賠薪資後回國,美國之音,2017年5月16日。

 

Neil Gough and Cao Li, U.S. Investigates Work at Pacific Island Casino Project With Trump TiesNew York Times, May 4, 2017 (中文版).

  

Saipan casino workers protest for payment as FBI cites illegal laborReuters, April 14, 2017.

Freedom of Speech is not a crime! Release labour rights activist Liu Shaoming now!

07

Jul 2017

 

 

Labour rights activist Liu Shaoming, who has been indicted of “inciting subversion of state power” for publishing online memoirs of his recollections of the 1989 pro-democracy movement was sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison on July 7, 2017, which is close to the maximum penalty (5 years sentence) of the crime.

 

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and a number of Hong Kong based labour NGOs strongly protest the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech.  We deem that the sentence handed down to Liu Shaoming was overly severe and the heavy sentence indicates that the Chinese Government’s intention to further control freedom of speech.  In fact, an online memoir was already enough to infuriate the nerves of the regime and instigated the authorities to devise such heavy sentence in dealing with those who dare to tell the truth.

 

In a similar situation, Nobel Peace Prize Laurate, Liu Xiaobo, was also sentenced to long prison term for expressing himself.  Being locked up behind bars for years and deprived of adequate medical attention, Liu was recently diagnosed terminal hepatic cancer while his health condition is deteriorating rapidly.  However, his request for leaving China to attend medical care was repeatedly rejected by the Chinese government in afraid that he may speak freely against the regime in another country.  In order to cover up the truth, the Chinese Government even denies dissidents’ rights to die in an honorable manner.

 

On the day of Liu Shaoming’s trial, about 20 representatives from the HKCTU and Hong Kong Labour NGOs gathered at the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in HKSAR to protest against the Chinese Government’s suppression on freedom of association.  We reiterate that freedom of speech is not a crime and demand the unconditional release of Liu Shaoming and Liu Xiaobo.

Investigation on Corporate misconduct is not a crime. Free the labour activists now!

27

Jun 2017

 

On May 30th, three labour activists Hua Haifeng, Li Zhao and Su Heng were being arrested by Jiangxi public security when they were investigating labour conditions of a Huajian Group’s factory, which has manufactured Ivanka Trump’s branded shoes. Those labour activists are still kept under criminal detention for over 23 days, and are prosecuted for illegal use of eavesdropping equipment.

 

The development of global supply chain and the profit maximization of multinational corporations are at the expense of the labour rights and environmental protection. Corporates have rarely been prosecuted and local governments turn a blind eye to their misconducts, the violation of law has already become a norm of the corporate practice. Labour activists investigated the corporate misconducts by uncovering investigation; the aim of the investigation is to foster public understanding of corporate misconduct. This investigating method is often being used to find out the truth when there is a lack of labour rights in the society. Investigators who are manifesting social justice should not be regarded as illegal and being arrested.

 

It is noted that the labour activists were being arrested when the factory found out they obtained adequate evidence that the factory of Huajian Group violates the labour laws and the misuse of student workers. The misconduct of the factory is liable to prosecution and punitive actions should be taken in accordance with the laws. Yet, three labour activists who are investigating illegal acts of the corporation are being arrested, instead of the Huajian Group, which objectively violate the public genuine rights to know, and prevent the world from knowing the truth.

 

As a group of labour NGOs concerning China labour rights, we believed the arrest is an act of collusion between the corporation and the local government to suppress labour activists. The petition contains the following demands:

1. The Jiangxi government should immediately release the labour activists- Hua Haifeng, Li Zhao and Su Heng;
2. Impose punishments on Huajian Group’s misconduct, and proceed to rectify the problem immediately;
3. Ensure public’s right to obtain information. Shame on criminal detention, not corporate misconduct investigation!

 

You can sign the Petition in the following link: https://goo.gl/fvuc4L

 

Signed by,

1. Asia Monitor Resource Centre
2. Globalization Monitor
3. Worker Empowerment
4. Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
5. Labour Education and Service Network
6. Labour Action China
7. Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour
8. Borderless Movement
9. China Labour Bulletin
10. Korean House for International Solidarity
11. Worker's Initiative - Kolkata
12.
Sedane Association
13. Justice & Peace Commission of the H.K. Catholic Diocese
14. International Fire Fighters
15. Yokohama Action Research
16.
Neighbourhood
and Worker's Service Centre
17. Clean Clothes Campaign East Asia Coalition
18. No Chains

 

Contact person: Ming Lam 94934368

200 Hong Kongers Commemorate the Death of Labour Rights Movement Hero Li Wangyang

07

Jun 2017

 

June 6 marks the fifth anniversary of the labour movement hero Li Wangyang’s death.  Five years ago, the wronged death of Li instigated an uproar both domestically and internationally, inspiring 25,000 Hong Kong people took to the streets to demand for his justice.  Nowadays, the Chinese Government is still trying to distort the truth in insisting that Li committed suicide, while Li’s sister, Li Wangling, brother in law Zhao Baozhu, friends Zhu Chengzi and Yin Zhenan are still under surveillance.

 

 

Inspired by the Polish Solidarity Union Movement, Li started to organize workers and advocated democratic awareness in the community during the early Eighties.  However, his wishes to see Chinese workers to enjoy the right to freedom of association has yet to be succeeded.  In recent years, the Chinese Government has escalated her efforts in suppressing independent labour movement by interfering the operations of independent labour NOGs, as well as arresting and detaining labour activists.

 

Last night, more than 200 Hong Kong people gathered at the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier in a candlelight vigil commemorating Li Wangyang organized by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.  It proved that Hong Kong people have not forgotten Li Wangyang and the atrocities inflicted on him by the regime.  Although his friends Zhao Baozhu, Zhu Chengzi, and Yin Zhenan were not able to attend the event, they recorded videos to express their condolences to their deceased friend, and express their gratitude for Hong Kong people’s support.  At the end of the event, the attendees offered flowers to commemorate Li Wangyang and support to his family and friends.  May we all wish that the justice will be brought upon the Li Wangwang’s death one day.

Right to communicate violated: Labour Activist has been detained and isolated for 16 months

19

Apr 2017

 

19th April, 2017

Chinese labour activist Meng Han was sentenced to a prison term of 21 months by Panyu District Court of Guangzhou City on 3 November 2016,  for "gathering crowds to disrupt public order" as he helped organize workers to defend their rights. He was then sent to serve his sentence in Shaoguan Prison of Guangdong Province and is expected to be released in September 2017. Together with the detention prior the sentence, Meng has been detained for over 16 months. Since his detention on 3 December 2015, his family has attempted to visit him over a dozen times but in vain. No matter it was the No.1 Detention Centre of Guangzhou or Shaoguan Prison, the authorities denied his family’s rights to see him. In late March 2017, Meng’s parents visited Shaoguan Prison again and was told that Meng had been going through education and therefore could not be visited. Frustrated, his family made various complaints at the Bureau of Public Security and never received any feedback. Now, they start to feel extremely worried about Meng’s conditions.

 

In fact, Meng’s freedom has been deprived by the Chinese Government through unjust means. By violating his rights to communicate with the outside world, the Chinese authority has further violated Meng’s fundamental human rights and even its own legislation. Article 48 of China’s Prison Law states, “A prisoner may, in accordance with the relevant regulations, meet with his relatives and guardians during the service of his sentence.”; UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners also guarantees prisoners’ rights to communicate with the outside world,  Rule 58 states, “Prisoners shall be allowed, under necessary supervision, to communicate with their family and friends at regular intervals:(a) By corresponding in writing and using, where available, telecommunication, electronic, digitals and other means; and (b) By receiving visits.”  During his 16-month detention, Meng was not allowed to see his family and his trial last year was conducted secretly, without his parents’ presence. Meng’s father tried to remit money to Meng through China Post (for him to spend in the prison) but the remittances were returned. Without Meng’s news for such a long time and being constantly worried about his son’s situation, Meng’s father became ill and was admitted to a hospital for over two weeks.  At the time of writing, he remains hospitalized.

 

To silent the victims of its arbitrary detentions and violent crackdown against labour activists, Chinese Government turns a blind eye to its own legislation, as well as the international minimum standard. The HKCTU and labour organizations in Hong Kong strongly condemn the Chinese Government’s violation of Meng Han’s rights to communicate with his family. We urge all relevant authorities to do their utmost to safeguard Meng’s fundamental human rights and ensure his well-being in the prison. We further emphasize that Meng was working for a labour organization and worked to defend workers’ rights. His work should not be criminalized. We call on the Chinese Government to immediately withdraw all charges against Meng and unconditionally release Meng.

 

Co-Signed by:

 

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

Asia Monitor Resource Centre

Worker Empowerment

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM)

Globalization Monitor

Labour Education and Service Network

Labour Action China

The Chinese Working Women's Network

International Labour Organization urge the Chinese Government to respect workers’ right to organise

09

Mar 2017

 

International Labour Organization:

Calling China’s Trade Union Law contrary to freedom of association, urging China to ensure activists can continue their work and conclude investigations with open court judgements

In December 2015, the Guangdong Provincial Government launched a mass crackdown against labour activists, detaining over 25 volunteers and employees of labour NGOs. Some of them were released after interrogation but six of them, Meng Han, Zhu Xiaomei, Tang Huanxing (aka Tang Jian), Zeng Feiyang, Peng Jiayong and Deng Xiaoming have been charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order”, for their involvement and assistance to workers at the labour actions in Lide Shoe Factory and Cuiheng Bag Factory. Another detainee, He Xiaobo was accused of “embezzlement”. In recent year, it has become a phenomenon that Chinese enterprises do not pay for workers’ social security and other labour protection measures and workers take collective actions to safeguard their rights. However, it is also equally common that entrepreneurs colluded with local governments and police repression is found in many cases. Under this background, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) wrote to International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), calling it to file a formal complaint at the ILO’s Committee of Freedom of Association (CFA) and demand the Chinese Government to stop its repression of freedom of association. On 9 November 2016, ILO’s CFA released an interim report and urged the Chinese Government to take the necessary steps to ensure that freedom of association is protected and labour activists should be allowed to continue to provide advisory services to workers without hindrance. It also demands the Chinese Government to conclude the pending investigations and provide court judgements of labour activists once they are complete.

 

Trade Union Law contrary to freedom of association

Despite the Chinese Government stated that “freedom of association is guaranteed through the explicit provisions of its Constitution”, CFA points out that in previous complaints against the Chinese Government, it has stated that China’s Trade Union Law is contrary to freedom of association, such as: “Trade union organizations at various levels shall be established according to the principle of democratic centralism… A trade union organization at a higher level shall exercise leadership over a trade union organization at a lower level.” (Article 9), “…The All-China Federation of Trade Unions shall be established as the unified national organization.” (Article 10), “The establishment of basic-level trade union organizations, local trade union federations, and national or local industrial trade union organizations shall be submitted to the trade union organization at the next higher level for approval…” (Article 11). In the past, CFA also urged the Chinese Government to take up its responsibility in revising these provisions. CFA further recalls that it previously stressed the importance of the development of free and independent organizations and negotiation with all those involved in social dialogue. (Paragraph 233)

 

Detentions of labour activists: a serious interference with civil liberties in general and with trade union rights in particular

Zeng Feiyang, Zhu Xiaomei, Meng Han, Deng Xiaoming, Peng Jiayong and Tang Jian were detained for their involvement in Lide Factory’s collective labour action between December 2014 and April 2015. They were accused of organizing three strikes, blockade of the factory entrance and threatening other workers to strike. Thus, the authority charged them with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” due to the violations of provisions of Sections 290, 271, 272 and 210 of the Criminal Law, i.e. causing damages to the public order and the interests of other citizens. However, CFA sees that the six activists have been arrested, detained and charged for being involved in Lide Factory’s labour dispute and considers that the detention was connected with their activities in defence of the interests of workers. CFA recalls that it has always recognized the right to strike by workers and their organizations as a legitimate means of defending their interests. It further recalls that taking part in picketing and firmly but peacefully inciting other workers to keep away from their workplace cannot be considered unlawful. As the complainant’s indication that collective actions staged at the Lide Factory were peaceful, the detention constitutes a serious interference with civil liberties in general and with trade union rights in particular. CFA expresses its concern over the heavy sentences, albeit suspended, imposed on Mr Zeng (3 years), Ms Zhu (18 months) and Mr Tang (18 months) and requests the Chinese Government to provide a copy of court judgement. As it is likely that the labour activists would not be able to provide any further service to workers during the pendency of their suspended sentences or risk imprisonment, CFA requests the Chinese Government to ensure that the three activists can continue providing advisory services to workers without hindrance. The complainant pointed out that families of Meng Han and Zeng Feiyang were under a lot of pressure and were attacked by unknown thugs. Threats and harassment on Mr Zeng’s family escalated when in April 2016, his mother filed a lawsuit against the Xinhua News Agency for an article accusing Mr Zeng of embezzlement. His parents were threatened by unknown persons, claiming to be from the national security, to withdraw the lawsuit. Likewise, Mr Meng’s parents were harassed repeatedly. In May 2016, power and water supply of their apartment was cut, unknown persons came to their apartment and smashed the door with an axe. CFA requests the Chinese Government to provide its observations thereon. (Paragraphs 200, 201, 235, 236 and 241)

 

Chinese Government condones collusion between officials and entrepreneurs, using police power and violence to suppress workers’ lawful actions

CFA is concerned about ITUC’s allegation of collusion between local governments and employers, which allows employers to use violence and police to attack workers and labour activists. The complainant reports that three days after the negotiation between workers and Lide Shoe Factory,  the office of Panyu Workers’ Centre, which Zeng Feiyang ran, was attacked. It is believed that it is a retaliation for its involvement with the labour action. After then, the employer continued to delay the workers’ severance payment for the factory relocation.

 

The complainant alleges that in the case of the same dispute, several workers were beaten and detained, including Meng Han,  when the police intervened in the meeting of about 100 labour activists in April 2015, who were discussing their tactics and electing their union representatives. Workers then requested the employer to repay their missing housing provident funds and social insurance, the government promised that it would facilitate the dialogue between workers and employer and issued a joint- statement with the employer, claiming it would address workers’ demands. Workers’ collective action also forced the public security bureau to release Meng Han.

 

Furthermore, ITUC’s allegation of police intervention in a labour dispute that occurred at the Japanese owned Cuiheng Bag Factory in March and April 2015 is noted by CFA. The employer refused workers’ demand to negotiate and called the police. Over 200 riot police arrived and hauled away 26 workers, four of whom were detained for more than ten days. Many other workers were injured. When Peng Jiayong, a volunteer from Haige Labour Services Centre visited workers in the hospital, he was beaten so severely that he was hospitalized with a lumbar disc protrusion. The next day, when four staff members from Haige Labour Services Centre (including Chen Huihai) went to report the attack at the police station, an unknown person attacked them with bricks. There were several police officers at the scene but they made no attempt to pursue the attacker. CFA regrets that no information has been provided by the Government on these alleged incidents, expects an independent inquiry will be conducted by the Chinese Government into these serious allegations and requests the Chinese Government to provide detailed information on its outcome. (Paragraphs 209, 212, 238, 240)

 

CFA’s conclusions and recommendations

In conclusion, CFA regrets that the Chinese Government has not provided detailed information in respect of the disputes described in the complaint. CFA stresses that the only durable solution to industrial conflicts is through full respect for the right of workers to establish organizations of their own choosing, promotion of collective bargaining and creating of appropriate mechanisms where industrial disputes can be resolved through dialogue. In the light of its foregoing interim conclusions, CFA invites the ILO Governing Body to approve the following recommendations:

 

1. CFA requests the Chinese Government to provide the court judgments in cases of Mr Zeng Feiyang, Ms Zhu Xiaomei and Mr Tang Huanxing and to ensure that the three activists can continue providing advisory services to workers without hindrance.

 

2. CFA expects that the pending investigation of Mr Deng Xiaoming and Mr Peng Jiayong will be concluded without further delay and that it will also shed light on the alleged attack on Mr Zeng on 20 December 2014 and the beating and detention of several workers of the Lide Shoes Factory and of Mr Meng in April 2015. CFA requests the Chinese Government to keep it informed in this respect and to provide the court judgments in cases of Mr Meng Han, Mr Deng Xiaoming and Mr Peng Jiayong, once they have been handed down.

 

3. CFA requests the Chinese Government to indicate whether Mr Chen Huihai has been charged, as other labour advisers, with “gathering a crowed to disturb social order”, as claimed by the complainant, and if so, to provide detailed information regarding his case.

 

4. CFA expects that an independent inquiry will be conducted by the Chinese Government into the allegation of the police intervention in the labour dispute at the Cuiheng Bag Factory in March and April 2015 which led to the detention of four factory workers and injuries of many, including Mr Peng Jiayong, volunteer of Haige Labour Services Centre, Mr Chen and Zhu Xinhua, a workers’ representative from another factory. It requests the Chinese Government to provide detailed information on its outcome.

 

5. CFA requests the Chinese Government to provide its observations on the allegations of pressure suffered by the relatives of Mr Zeng and Mr Meng.

(Paragraphs 242, 243)

 

HKCTU welcomes the judgements made by CFA and urges the Chinese Government to positively respond to CFA’s recommendations, namely stop obstructing labour activists in safeguarding labour rights, respect workers’ freedom of association and right to collective bargaining. Just right before the report was released, Meng Han was sentenced in jail for 21 months for involving in the strikes above. This shows that the Chinese Communist Party has no intention to protect the worker’s freedom of association and their right to strike in order to maintain the stability of their ruling role. We urge the Chinese government release Meng Han immediately, reform the Trade Union Law and respect the workers’ rights to organise and collective bargaining. 

Hong Kong Enterprises Neglect Social Responsibilities and Condone Brutal Repression on Workers

26

Jan 2017

In October 2016, the HKCTU released a “Monitoring Report on Collective Labour Disputes of Hong Kong Enterprises in China” (hereafter: Monitoring Report), covering large-scale labour disputes in Hong Kong enterprises and their labour rights violations between May 2015 and April 2016. The report exposed that labour actions had taken place in many subsidiaries of members of business associations in Hong Kong, as these enterprises violated China’s labour legislations. They failed in paying workers’ social insurance as required by law, relocated plants without informing workers, forced workers into “voluntary resignation” and etc. Their ultimate goal is to undercut or minimize the employee's entitlements' to severance payments. As Guangdong Province is still undergoing economic transformation, China suffers from economic downturn and foreign investment dries up, labour actions are expected to occur more frequently. Thus, the HKCTU urges the business associations to monitor the operation of their members, to ensure that they respect labour legislations, stop repressing striking workers and observe fundamental labour rights.

In recent years, Guangdong Provincial Government has launched economic restructuring policy that aims to attract high-end/high-value industries to replace labour intensive manufacturers. The rapid development of the coastal region has led labour costs to rise and therefore, many factories in Guangdong Province have started to relocate to inner provinces or other countries in South-East Asia, for lower production costs.  However, many employers attempt to undercut workers’ wages, social insurance payments and severance payments by hiding the relocation/closure plans from workers. The Monitoring Report recorded a 30% annual growth of large-scale labour actions and among the 32 cases, almost 60% (19 cases) were caused by unpaid or missing severance compensation. Over 20% of them involved subsidiaries of Hong Kong-listed companies. In various cases, Hong Kong enterprises violated multiple legislations, e.g. in 25% of cases, the enterprises failed to pay both severance payments and wages. In short, Hong Kong enterprises often ruthlessly violate China’s labour legislations.

 

According to Item 3 of Article 40 of Labour Contract Law, “an employing unit may revoke the labour contract, if it notifies in writing the worker of its intention 30 days in advance or after paying him an extra one month salary, when the objective conditions taken as the basis for conclusion of the contract have greatly changed, so that the original labour contract cannot be performed and, after consultation between the employing unit and the worker, no agreement is reached on modification of the contents of the labour contract.” Yet, Article 46 and Article 47 state that the employer should pay financial compensation to an employee on the basis of the number of years a person works in a unit, the rate being one month’s salary for the work of one full year. Thus, an employer is obligated to inform employees about the decision of relocation and pay the severance payments to employees who disagree with the changes in the labour contracts.

 

Royale Furniture Holdings Limited (HKG: 1198) set a vivid example of corporate misconduct. During the National Day holidays in 2015, Signature Enterprise Company Limited (Guangzhou), a subsidiary of Royale Furniture Holdings Limited, moved machineries to another production site, about two hours drive from its Guangzhou plant, without informing its workers. Workers returned from their long holidays and found the factory gate had been locked and over 100 men were blocking their entrance. These men were all uniformly dressed in black T-shirts. Three workers were injured when a conflict broke out between workers and these men. On 16 October, the enterprise posted a “Notice of Return to Work”, dated on 12 October. It ordered workers to take a coach organized by the enterprise on 19 October, to travel to work in the new plant. Due to family reasons, some workers could not travel so far to work in such a short notice, a strike broke out. Workers refused to be relocated and demand severance payments. Yet the employer accused workers of “voluntary resignation” of “failing to attend work” and offered to pay 20% of the severance payments they were entitled to. Such a practice is a blunt violation of labour legislation in China.

 

The Monitoring Report also pointed out that some Hong Kong-owned enterprises violated the three fundamental labour rights, deploying violence to repress striking workers, violating workers’ rights to strike and collective bargaining. For instance, strikes broken out in Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Factory, a subsidiary of Lever Style Inc., a member of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, for missing pension insurance, housing provident funds, unfair dismissal and detention of workers’ representative Wu Weihua in December 2014 and June 2015. Workers reported that they were assaulted by police and threatened by local authorities repeatedly and were forced to sign “voluntary resignation agreements”. With the authority’s help, Artigas could get away without paying workers’ entitled severance payments. In the end, Artigas repaid only two years of pension insurance and four years of housing provident funds (in instalments over 6 years), a so-called relief fund calculated at a rate one third lower than Shenzhen City’s legal minimum wages, on the basis of the years of services. Compared with the legally entitled severance fund, i.e. on the basis of the number of years a person works in a unit, the rate being one month’s salary for the work of one full year, the relief fund is far lower. Deploying police to assault workers and dismissing workers’ representative, clearly violates workers’ rights to strike and collective bargaining. Yet, Lever Style Inc., as its parent company, has not paid any effort to protect workers in Artigas.

 

Another example is violation of labour legislations is found in Johnson Electrics (Guangdong) Limited, wholly owned by Hong Kong listed company Johnson Electrics (HKG: 0179), a member of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. The plant failed to provide appropriate protective measures or training to workers who work with benzene, a carcinogn. When workers then contracted leukaemia and applied for identification of occupational diseases at the Hospital for Occupational Disease Prevention and Treatment, Johnson Electrics delayed the procedure in providing related information for an official diagnosis, which put their cases in limbo. Furthermore, it kept lobbying workers not to report their diseases to the hospital and wanted to settle the cases privately. Workers refused this offer and when they finally received the official diagnosis of occupational leukaemia from the hospital, Johnson Electrics still refused to pay compensation. Some workers had to take loans to pay for their medical expenses. In July 2016, some victims came to Hong Kong and protested at Johnson Electrics’ Annual General Meeting. They demanded the parent company to bear its responsibilities and pay compensation as required by law. Yet, until now, Johnson Electrics paid nothing.

All these cases illustrated that the four major business associations failed to ensure their members to abide China’s labour legislations and respect fundamental labour rights. In fact, these cases are simply the tip of an iceberg. It is questionable if the business associations have paid any efforts to monitor its members and thus.  Thus, the HKCTU and other labour NGOs took the opportunity to protest against the four business associations on January 26 at their joint luncheon and urged the four major business associations to:

 

  • run an annual investigation to check if its members obey the local labour legislations and publish the results;
  • disqualify members which violate labour legislations repeatedly and disclose such records;
  • urge members to disclose their labour practice in their annual report, to allow public to monitor the enterprises’ implementation of corporate social responsibility;
  • demand members to respect the three fundamental labour rights and stop brutally repressing workers’ strikes.
Coca-Cola China Refranchising Deal Sells Out Workers Rights

02

Dec 2016

 

In mid-November, the Coca-Cola Company announced to refranchise their bottling operations in China to COFCO Corporation and Swire Beverage Holdings Limited.  For fear of their employment stabilities and conditions being endangered by the new ownership, workers from the Coca-Cola bottling plants in Jilin, Chongqing, and Chengdu demanded to be laid off and compensated in accordance to the statutory severance payments.  The workers also demanded that employment conditions and seniorities under the new ownership should remain unchanged.  However, their demands were left unheard by the company and hence, the workers went on strike on November 21.  On the same night, police arrived at the Coca-Cola Plant in Chongqing to quash the strike.  A number of workers were injured in the mayhem and seven workers were arrested as a result, including a pregnant worker.  According to various sources, the strike is still ongoing in Chengdu and first round of negotiation has already taken place on December 1, despite no progress was able to materialize from the meeting.

 

 

In a number of previous cases of mergers and acquisitions, workers’ rights were often sacrificed as a result.  New ownerships would often apply various measures to force out workers from previous ownerships without recognizing their seniorities and replace them with workers under far inferior employment terms.  For instance, soon after COFCO acquired the ownership of Le-Conte Chocolate in March this year, they managed to close down most production plants and instigated a massive lay-off.  For fear of following the footsteps of the Le-Conte workers, the Coca-Cola workers organized themselves in collective actions to demand the Coca-Cola Company to buy out their seniorities before transferring to new ownerships.

 

According to the Human Rights Policy published by Coca-Cola, "The Company is committed to maintaining a workplace that is free from violence, harassment, intimidation and other unsafe or disruptive conditions due to internal and external threats."[1] However, the violent treatment of the workers on the night of November 21 was a blatant violation of such proclamation.  Moreover, the Policy also stated that, “Where employees are represented by a legally recognized union, we are committed to establishing a constructive dialogue with their freely chosen representatives. The Company is committed to bargaining in good faith with such representatives.”  Thus, the HKCTU would like to strongly advise the Coca-Cola Company to adhere to the policy of their own decree and demand an immediate stop to all suppressions on the strike and initiate dialogue with the workers in good faith.

 

 

In solidarity with the striking Coca-Cola workers in China, the HKCTU staged a protest, joined by other representatives from labour organizations in Hong Kong, against the Coca-Cola Company at their Hong Kong head office.  The Director of Public Affairs, Communication, and Sustainability of Coca-Cola China Limited, Ms. Florence Yu, received our petition letter and promised to pass on our demands to the management in China.  The HKCTU will continue to closely monitor the situation and press the Coca-Cola Company to resolve the dispute in accordance with the international labour standards.

 

Labour Activist Meng Han Unjustly Sentenced to 21 months in Prison

03

Nov 2016

 

Among other Chinese labour activists who were detained in late 2015, Meng Han was the last to be tried.  He was sentenced to 21 months in prison on 3 November 2016 in the Panyu District Court, Guangzhou. As he has been detained since 3 December 2015, he is expected to serve 10 more months in prison and be released on 2 September 2017.  A tough guy from Hubei Province, Meng has been jailed twice as a labour activist. In 2013, he was detained for nine months for participating a collective labour action at his workplace. Now, he is serving sentence again for being an organizer in a labour organization. 

 

During the past 11 months of detention, he faced harsh torture. He was once interrogated for 13 days consecutively and only allowed to sleep for some two hours per day. The authority did everything to force him to pledge guilty but his belief was not to be undermined easily. He insisted that being an organizer of a labour organization, it is within his legitimate rights to assist workers to safeguard their rights and help them to solve labour disputes. During his first detention in 2013, he wrote, “I could be poor, lonely, or even be killed, but I cannot live without dignity.” This belief helped him survive the psychological torture from the authority. His family has also been continuously harassed, under police surveillance and forced to relocate from their residence. Yet, Meng refused to confess, as he was determined that he did nothing wrong.

 

 

Meng has always been a worker. In his early years, he worked at the Yangtze River Administration Bureau of Yichang City. After he was retrenched, he started to work as a security guard at No.1 Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2010. In 2013, he participated in a collective labour action with other security guards in the hospital and was elected as the “chief representative” in the negotiation with the management. However, he was then dismissed and sentenced to nine-month imprisonment. At his defence speech in court, he insisted, “I was honoured to be elected as a workers’ representative and their chief negotiator. From that moment on, I knew that my responsibility is to closely work with the workers and face the challenges together.”

 

His experience made him realize that Chinese workers often found themselves entirely helpless and unorganized when their rights were exploited. Thus, after his release, he joined the Panyu Migrant Workers Services Centre to continue his fight for workers’ rights on the front line. During the labour disputes in Lide Shoe Factory in 2014 and 2015, he promoted workers’ bargaining capacity by assisting them to elect their representatives, provide union education and help raise strike fund. In the end, the workers were successful in their pursue of the repayment of high temperature subsidies, missing social insurance premiums, housing provident fund and severance pay due to the production plan relocation. Yet, the authority considered Meng’s good deeds as criminal offences and charged him with "gathering crowds to disrupt public order", as an attempt to stigmatize and criminalize the workers’ peaceful and rational stuggle.

 

In order to cover up the unlawfulness of this arbitrary detention, the Chinese Government pulled all her tricks to persuade Meng to plead guilty. When Meng refused to cooperate, they handed him a severe sentence as retaliation and a warning to other workers and activists. With Meng being sentenced for upholding labour rights once again, righteous labour activists are now facing unprecedented challenges in gaining a foothold in China.

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