Position and Analysis

Automobile workers’ collective actions

26

Sep 2015

and development of grassroots unions:
a case study of ST Auto Parts Factory

Author: Elizabeth, from Red Balloon Solidarity. Edited by CLQ

 

ST Auto Parts Factory (hereafter: ST Factory) is jointly-owned by Japanese and Taiwanese investors and is one of the very few Chinese factories where direct elections of its enterprise union have successfully been conducted. ST Factory employs 536 workers, producing auto springs and shake absorbers for Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Since 2010, two strikes have broken out in ST Factory, with workers demanding to increase their wages and receive their annual bonuses. In 2011, its union started to run democratic elections. The key to ST workers’ success is linked to the automobile industry’s characteristics. However, one should not overlook how they have also have encountered pressure from the factory management and the upper level union.

 

Picture from internet

 

Automobile workers’ power & the industry’s characteristics

Compared with workers in other sectors, automobile workers tend to have a stronger sense of their rights, awareness of their worth and recognition of their identity. These factors strengthen their determination in pushing for union democratization. Furthermore, Japanese and Korean automobile producers tend to use a single supplier for a certain auto part, to reduce the costs of merchandising and production. Thus, when a strike in an auto parts factory takes place, it can lead to a halt of the whole production line. This gives the automobile workers a formidable bargaining power in front of the employers and government.


In the past, collective actions might be unorganized and an one-off. The recent union-led collective actions have become better organized and contributed to actively building up a workers’ network. This has also provided better protection to labour activists. Yet, in the process of building a democratic union, ST workers have encountered many obstacles.

 

Major barriers to union development after its democratic election

Firstly, after the democratic election, the majority of union representatives and union committee members turned out to be line managers and engineers, who would rather not risk their current wages and welfare and tend to keep quiet in front of the employer. To make matters worse, the employer is offering job promotion to the union chairperson, to buy his cooperation in suppressing the call for collective consultation, a vocal demand in the third term of the trade union.


Secondly, ordinary workers are generally obedient and afraid of authority; they tend to elect their managers as union representatives, instead of those who genuinely speak for workers. Ordinary workers’ union participation is also restricted. The ST trade union, for example, sends emails to inform its members about attending meetings, but since ordinary workers are not allowed to use mobile phones or computers at work they often miss the union meetings.

 

Pressure from the upper level union: inadequate room for grassroots unions to perform

The upper level union defines the role of its grassroots unions as a facilitator to smoothen labour relations instead of as defenders of labour rights. Such a definition restricts the grassroots unions’ development. The ACFTU expects the grassroots unions to handle workers’ problems and consider the enterprises’ interests. In its views, grassroots unions serve the roles of resolving labour disputes and reducing industrial actions.

The ST Union is still a young union. Grassroots workers’ recognition of a bottom up organizing approach and wisdom to crack the intervention from their employer and the upper level union are the key to their union growing strong and independently.

Why is being a “rights lawyer” a high-risk job?

26

Sep 2015

 

Between 9 and 20 July 2015 alone, at least 235 lawyers in China were taken away by the police from their homes or offices. This wave of detention led to an international outcry and some 200 Chinese lawyers and citizens started a joint petition. They demanded that some one hundred policemen be held accountable for criminal offences such as “abuse of power, neglect of duty, defamation, disciplinary violations”. Director of Beijing Wutian Law Firm, Lawyer Cheng Hai, confirmed that he had taken part in the petition and that the following line from the petition summed up his view:
“This is a crime massively violating the rights of Chinese lawyers and citizens. It will largely undermine rule of law in China and if no legal action is taken to stop it and hold the offenders criminally accountable, then “rule of law in China” will only become empty rhetoric.”


Cheng has been one of the victims of dependent judiciary and he has shared with CLQ his year-long experience in fighting for the protection and independence of lawyers.

Rights lawyer Cheng Hai

 

Double standards for judges and lawyers

Rights lawyers represent different vulnerable groups in handling their lawsuits, yet, ironically, they are the most vulnerable group in the Chinese judicial system. Taking Cheng as an example, in 2014, he represented a fellow lawyer, who had been charged for his campaign calling on “the government officials to reveal their wealth”. His operation as a lawyer was obstructed by the procuratorate and court in Haidian District. When he protested against the secret trial, the presiding judge gave him a warning for “disturbing court order” and in the end he was disciplined by the Ministry of Justice and banned him from practicing for one year. The ban will last until 15 September 2015. As a profession, lawyers also need a trade union or a professional association to back them up. Can the All China Lawyers Association serve this purpose?

 

No organization to truly represent lawyers

“In China there are local lawyers associations and their charters state their responsibilities to protect lawyers’ rights. Their operations are funded by membership fees as well. However, the representatives of these associations have never been elected by members; some of them are even hostile to lawyers. I represented Chen Guancheng some years ago and the public security authority repressed me and illegally obstructed my operation as a lawyer. Yet, the lawyers association did nothing to help me.”


Lawyer Cheng believes that when the right time comes, lawyers should organize an organization to represent themselves. In 2008, he wrote an open letter to the Beijing Lawyers Association, demanding it to run direct elections and to reduce its membership fee by half. His petition was supported and co-signed by 35 lawyers and it pushed the Beijing Lawyers Association to run its first direct election in 2009. Since then, several other lawyers associations have started to revise their chapters and to run their election. Cheng reflects that, in general, lawyers are not very aware of their own rights and thus only a few of them have been defending themselves and it will take a longer time to achieve improvements.

 

The Ministry of Justice violates its yearly appraisal mechanism

As a Chinese lawyer, apart from losing his job and being put into prison for some “made-up crimes”, he has to renew his license at the Ministry of Justice each year. Many rights lawyers’ cannot get their licenses renewed, even though such an annual appraisal mechanism does not have legal grounds. Lawyer Cheng points out that the Law on Lawyers states that the annual appraisal should be done within the law firm and it does not require lawyers to have their licenses stamped by the Ministry of Justice each year. However, the majority of lawyers are afraid of violating the requirement of the Ministry of Justice, and the procuratorate and courts refuse to allow lawyers without the annual license from the Ministry to take up cases.
“In April 2015, I started a campaign, calling on lawyers to boycott such an annual licensing mechanism. 38 lawyers signed to support it but the rest did not dare to risk their license, as it might cost them the chance to defend others. If we could have more supporters, then such an illegal practice of a small group of people could not prevail.” Cheng commented.


Lawyer Cheng’s analysis explains how, for a rights lawyer, risks not only come from administrative obstacles or violent repression but also how the rights to work are restricted unjustifiably. The changes that Lawyer Cheng strives to bring about deserve more attention and support.

Unions from Asian countries show

26

Sep 2015

support to independent union movement in China and Hong Kong

The HKCTU calls on international unions to keep their faith

 

The HKCTU attended the International Trade Union Confederation’s Asia Pacific (hereafter: ITUC-AP) Regional General Council and proposed a resolution on China. The resolution urged the international unions to support Chinese workers’ struggles in improving labour conditions and trade union rights, to demand the Chinese Government release detained labour activists immediately and to genuinely implement all core labour standards as stated in the ILO conventions. Regarding Hong Kong, the General Council fully supported the Hong Kong trade unions’ quest for universal, fair and democratic elections. It also condemned the Hong Kong SAR Government in creating White Terror after the Umbrella Movement, by targeting activists, some of them unionists, with politically charged prosecutions.


At the same time, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation proposed another resolution, demanding the ITUC-AP continue implementing the ITUC’s China Policy, i.e. to facilitate in building the relations between sectoral Global Union Federations and the ACFTU. As a result, the General Council of the ITUC-AP combined the two proposed resolutions on China and passed them as one revised resolution.


Lee Cheuk-yan, the general secretary of the HKCTU has pointed out that the labour movement in Hong Kong and China has been enduring a hard time as political control is tightening. By passing this resolution, the ITUC AP showed the needed support to the workers. However, Lee believes that the ITUC-AP’s willingness to exchange with the ACFTU, is contradicting its position in supporting the independent labour movement. History has shown us that while dialogue with the official unions might not improve workers’ rights it will certainly be used for propaganda purpose. Lee reassured that the HKCTU would continue to inform the international community about the labour movement in Hong Kong and China, to promote advocacy and monitor multinational corporations in improving labour conditions.

 

The HKCTU delegation

 

Speech by Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of the HKCTU

Global campaign to support Chinese workers’

26

Sep 2015

Global campaign to support Chinese workers’ freedom of association and fight against violence

 

On the eve of the anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre, the HKCTU launched a series of campaigns calling on the Chinese Government to release detained labour activists and stop brutally repressing workers who are defending their rights.

It launched a global writing campaign with Labour Start and translated a petition into 18 languages. Over 10,000 supporters signed the petition (see below).

http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=2743

 

During the anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre, the HKCTU collected signatures from Hong Kong citizens for this campaign and distributed 3,000 memorial fans. It also held a memorial service for Li Wangyang (a Chinese labour activist whose suspicious death caused an uproar in Hong Kong in 2012). Some 300 people attended (see picture).

The HKCTU vowed to get justice for the late Li Wangyang and condemned the Chinese Government for restricting the freedom of his family

Collecting signatures from the public in support of Chinese workers

Signature Campaign Appeal: Release All Imprisoned Labour Activists,

14

Jun 2015

Stop Violent Repression of Workers Fighting for Their Rights

 

 

As Chinese workers become aware of their legal rights, they are more militant in their struggles, which are also becoming more frequent. In the meantime, apart from forcing labour organisations to close down their offices, local governments are gradually turning to the use of violence and detention as repressive means against workers, who are often forced to accept resignation compensation which is much lower than what is stipulated in the law. In the first six months of 2015, there were at least three cases of labour disputes in which police broke into the venues where workers were meeting. They beat up and arbitrarily arrested staff of labour organisations and workers’ representatives. They were detained compulsorily for 1 to 20 days under the charge of “sabotaging production and operation”.  At least 7 labour activists are now in prison (see name list below). They were sentenced to either life or long-term imprisonment. There are also innumerable but undocumented or covered-up cases of labour activists who are detained or criminalized.

 

Since the second half of 2014, the Chinese government has been tightening its surveillance of mainland NGOs that receive overseas funding and are stifling the development of the civic society and the labour movement. The draft Foreign NGOs Management Law and the National Security Law will be reviewed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress this year. The purpose of the new laws is to block mainland NGOs from building connection and receiving support from overseas. Under the new laws, Chinese people’s right to free association will be further curtailed.

 

The CTU calls upon the Chinese government to immediately:

1. Release all imprisoned labour activists and stop violent assault and repression targeting labour organisations and representatives of workers who are fighting for their rights;

2. Become a signatory of the No. 87 and No.98 International Labour Organisation Conventions which guarantee citizens’ right to organise trade unions and to collective bargaining, and to repeal the stringent measures imposed on mainland NGOs and safeguard citizens’ right to free association, as well as establishing the three labour rights;

3. Investigate rigorously any enterprise that makes profit by violating the rights of workers, and to enforce laws rigorously to safeguard workers’ rights.

 

Name

Occupation

Sex

Residence

Date of Detention

Cause of Detention

Penalty

Liu Jian

Electronic worker

male

Hunan

1989/mm/dd

Took part in a labour strike during which the workers allegedly ransacked the city government office when a worker died after being beaten up by security guards.

Life imprisonment

Zhu Fangming

Worker in a wheat flour mill plant

male

Hunan

1989/06/11

Organised independent trade unions in 1989

Life imprisonment

Jiang Cunde

Mechanical worker

male

Shanghai

1999/mm/dd

Advocated the organization of independent trade unions

20 years

Wang Miaogen

Factory manual worker

male

Shanghai

1999/05/dd

Detained in labour reform camps after organising independent trade union in 1989, he was later imprisoned.

Unknown

Xing 

Shiku

Former worker in state enterprise

male

Heilongjiang

2007/2/15

Held for petitioning to the State Bureau of Letters and Calls to protest violation of workers’ rights by the state enterprise

Imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital

Zhou 

Decai

Human rights activist

male

Henan

2012/02/28

Helped workers and peasants to safeguard their rights and monitored rural elections.

5 years

Liu 

Jianjun

Railway worker

male

Shanxi

2008/06/28

A labour activist and human rights advocate, Liu was imprisoned when he went to Beijing to petition.

Unknown

Source: ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO), The Dui Hua Foundation, Human Rights in China, etc.

 

 

The dignity of labour can only be materialized with your support!

Help us gain justice for workers  Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions bank account for receiving donations:
Hang Seng Bank 295-164578001
How many Li Wangyangs are there in the prisons of China?

14

Jun 2015

Editor’s note

The theme of this special edition  issue  is the struggles of the labour movement under authoritarian regimes. In Hong Kong, we have been trying to gain the support of the larger society to demand the immediate release of all imprisoned labour activists in China. We also demand that the Chinese government stop the violent repression and arbitrary detention of workers who are fighting to safeguard their rights. To learn from the experience of other countries, we have asked Dr. Chan Kalok, scholar and Civil Party legislator, to write about Solidarity, the Polish independent labour movement that fought against the dictatorial regime of the Soviet Union in the last century.  

 

How many Li Wangyangs are there in the prisons of China?

Li Wangyang 

Known as the “iron man of June 4th” -  was a labour activist from Hunan. He was imprisoned for 22 years during which he lost his sight and hearing and was paralysed in the legs due to torture. When he was interviewed by Cable TV in May, 2012, he said he never regretted taking part in the democratic movement. “For the actualization of a multi-party system in China, even if I were beheaded, I would not regret it.”

On June 6, a few days after the interview was broadcast, Li was found dead in the hospital under strange circumstances. The Chinese authorities claimed that he had committed suicide. Li’s story drew publicattention to the situation of imprisoned labour activists in China. The CTU appealed to trade unions and civic societies around the world to write to the President and the Premier of China to strongly demand an investigation into Li’s death and to immediately cease persecuting labour activists.

This issue features the stories of three other labour activists; Liu Jian, Wang Miaogen and Zhu Fangming, all still in prison because of their participation in the June 4 democratic movement. Please continue to fight for their release and political rehabilitation.

 

Liu Jian

In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre, Liu Jian and Liu Zhihua (刘智华), workers at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant, Hunan Province, participated in a demonstration against the crackdown with some thousand other workers from the factory. A worker was seriously injured by a security guard in the action. The demonstrators then allegedly ransacked the home of the security section chief. Afterwards, Liu Jian and Liu Zhihua were sentenced to life imprisonment in either August or October 1989 on charges of “hooliganism” and “intentional injury.” No evidence of the alleged violence has been made public. Liu Jian is apparently the only one of the four detained Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant workers who has still not had his life prison term reduced to a fixed-term sentence.

In May 2009, Dui Hua noted that Liu was believed to be incarcerated but that he was no longer "imprisoned in Hunan Province." On June 1, 2009, Human Rights in China reported that Liu Jian is still in prison, but that his current detention location is unknown.

Wang Miaogen

The Shanghai Workers Autonomous Federation was formed in May, during the Democracy Movement in 1989,. Wang Miaogen, a manual worker in Shanghai, was a leading member of the independent union. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre, Wang spent two and a half years in police detention undergoing “re-education through labour” for his involvement in the banned workers’ group. In April 1993, after he committed an act of self-mutilation in front of a Shanghai police station in public protest against having recently been severely beaten up by the police, he was subsequently detained and then forcibly sent to the Shanghai Ankang Mental Hospital, a facility run by the Public Security Bureau to detain and treat mentally ill people.

Wang has been held incommunicado at the Shanghai Ankang now for more than 12 years and in custody for more than 16 years. Wang has no fixed release date.

 

Zhu Fangming

Zhu Fangming was a 28-year-old worker at Xihu Flour Factory in Hengyang City, Hunan Province during the 1989 Democracy Movement.  Zhu became the vice-chairman of the Hengyang City Workers Autonomous Federation. He organized demonstrations and took part in a sit-in in front of the municipal government offices. After the bloody crackdown, he allegedly led workers to the municipal Public Security Bureau to demand justice for the victims. He was sentenced in December 1989 by the Hengyang City Intermediate People’s Court to life imprisonment on a charge of “hooliganism”.

In October 2005, the Chinese government maintained that Zhu "was never punished" for his activities in 1989 and it stated that he is once again working at Xihu Flour Factory. However many groups continue to believe Zhu remains detained and is believed to be still held in Hengyang Prison (Hunan Provincial No.2 Prison).

The Labour Movement and Dictatorial Regimes Can Never Coexist

13

Jun 2015

Chan Kalok, Associate Professor at the Department of Government and International Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University, Legislative Councillor, member of Civil Party

 
According to the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, “the working class and the proletariat” were in charge in socialist societies.But in reality, the communist regimes had hijacked “democracy” in the name of  the “People’s Republic”. After they had seized power, the leaders of the communist parties completely  forgot their goal of liberating the oppressed. The first generation of revolutionary leaders replaced bottom-up grassroot democracy and decision making with totalitarian rule. Human dignity, individual rights and freedom were perpetually suppressed: personality cult, brainwashing education, official propaganda with only one voice, controlling and maneuvering the mass media, secret police, labour reform, concentration camps, violent suppression, embezzlement and corruption. To control the society, the dictators used both sticks and carrots to impose submission.

 

 

During the era of the Cold War, there was a black humour joke: “In the world of capitalism, trade unions and the labour movement are organized to safeguard workers’ interest, to fight against exploitation and to struggle with the bourgeoisie. In the world of communism, trade unions and the labour movement are part of the state machine that the communist parties use to dominate workers. In fact, trade unions have no more reason to exist!”  The communist parties sometimes claimed that the working class “was not completely awakened and the vanguard party must continue to lead”. At other times they claimed that the nature and the interest of the working class were “very apparent”. Since one could not dispute these claims, the result was always the same.  The May 1 parades in squares to celebrate the Labour Day were such shams. Other than singing praises to the communist parties and the communist leaders, participating organisations and their members never demanded any labour rights.

 

In capitalist Hong Kong, the death of Yeung Kwong, former president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, has aroused debates on his role in the1967 riot. Some commentators believed that he should be held responsible, but Ng Hongmun, a veteran in the Hong Kong communist camp, said he must “say something fair” for Yeung. According to him, the former leader of HKFTU was “following orders in all that he did”. He had no decision-making power and had to obey the New China News Agency in everything he did, be they big or small. He was a placid but also acquiescent person. It was because he was obedient that he was appointed the “leader” of the “Anti-British Anti-Violence Uprising”.

What is happening now in China and Hong Kong are actually similar to what happened in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. If anyone still believes that the trade unions and the labour movement dominated and controlled by the communist regime have their own free will and enjoy autonomy, he or she is impossibly naïve. In fact, a communist regime would never tolerate any trade union or labour movement that is independent of the communist party, the state and the totalitarian regime. The so-called freedom of speech and freedom of thought and action enjoyed by workers and trade unions is mere rhetoric. The trade unions and the labour movement have long been robbed of their right to voice their opinions.

 

Looking back on the history of the communist regimes of Europe, even though workers’ struggles were sporadic, any resolute struggle that workers undertook was treated as an act of sabotage or (counter)revolutionary activities. Even though workers had long been fighting for bread and freedom, in the face of the formidable and cold-blooded communist regimes, labour movements in Eastern Europe were often caught up in the cycle of “one step forward and then two steps backward”. Solidarity, the Polish trade union movement was joined not only by workers but also by all other Polish citizens. Over ten million people around the country took part in the movement. To counter the ruling regime’s usual tactics of “divide and rule”, the movement overcame differences among its participants in terms of class, social status, religions and other interests. It also kept reforming and improving its organization through practice. To force the Communist Party to negotiate with them on an equal basis, Solidarity occupied factories in 1980. When repression got worse, it went underground in 1982. In 1989, Solidarity became a political alliance that succeeded in overthrowing the communist regime. Through Solidarity the Polish people experienced democratic participation in an unprecedented way. After the extraordinary mobilization of citizens led by Solidarity and with the fall of the communist regime, the trade union leadership split up. Now the trade union no longer exercises the massive political influence it used to have. However, the role Solidarity played as the backbone of the struggle of the Polish people and its importance in Polish history is undoubtable.

 

 

As much as communist regimes frowned on democratic elections and multi-party systems, the form of struggles and resistance that the civil society assumed was also born from a desire for democracy and a multi-party system. It is of course not easy for any social movement to become a full-fledged people’s movement or to gain the influence that Solidarity enjoyed. The perseverance of the Polish people in differentiating truth from falsehood and right from wrong was definitely an important condition for the success of the movement. Aiming to build a humane society and refusing lies, they focused on gaining freedom from authoritarian rule and held fast to their belief in national autonomy, democracy and freedom. Solidarity’s organizing involved many aspects of work all of which were difficult and arduous. The Polish are polemicists and everyone wants to act in his or her own way.  However, after fighting with the communist regime over many years, they knew the cost they had to pay if they remain divided. They realized that it was absolutely necessary to safeguard the unity and integrity of Solidarity and to develop and organise the movement with an overall programme. Solidarity provided support and protection to all those who fought against the authoritarian regime, the collapse of which was accelerated because of such concerted effort.

Growing labour conflicts: more strikes due to Hong Kong enterprises’ labour violations

12

Jun 2015

Police brutality against the labour movement:
strikers physically assaulted in factories

In the second year since the establishment of its database to monitor Hong Kong-owned enterprises’ conduct in China, the HKCTU collected documents and reports from media, social media and other labour organizations on various collective labour actions that took place between May 2014 and April 2015. At least 25 media reported cases of workers’ collective rights-defending actions involving Hong Kong capital (a 40% growth compared with the previous year, between May 2013 and April 2014) are identified.  20 of these cases took place in the Pearl River Delta and more than 90% involved strikes. Nearly 30% of cases came from listed companies in Hong Kong. Almost 70% of the cases were triggered by the Hong Kong-owned enterprises’ violations of the Labour Contract Law. 60% of the cases involved “cut and run”, whereby workers received either little or no compensation and were left with wage arrears when the factories closed.

Police stormed into Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Factory in Shenzhen, on the 9th day of strike.

Our major findings show a growing trend in labour actions and various violations of labour legislation, involving suppliers of numerous multi-national companies. Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Company in Shenzhen, a supplier of UNIQLO and G2000, for example, was found to have not been paying workers’ pension premiums and housing funds for many years, resulting in many women workers retiring without a pension. Due to this, as well missing overtime wages, over 1,000 workers launched a strike in early December 2014. This case illustrates the multinational companies’ failure to address the labour violations of their suppliers and that labour exploitation remains a severe issue.

 

Enterprises gave false wages slips so as to pocket social security premiums

The findings also revealed that about 30% of the labour conflicts were due to missing social security premiums. One of the cases involved Foundation Industrial (Far East) Ltd. A strike broke out at its Shanghai Gaojian Garment Ltd. in Pudong New Area of Shanghai on 16 October 2014. Workers demanded the enterprise repay their two-months of missing wages and their missing pension premiums of many months. Ms Wang, a worker explained, “the enterprise had stopped paying for our pension premium since November last year. Yet, it always deducted the premiums from our wages. We workers have very low wages, how can we continue to live like this?”

On 14 Oct 2014, nearly 1000 workers from Shanghai Gaojian Garment Ltd. launched a strike and blockade at Nanzhu Road, demanding their pension insurance.

When over 1000 workers staged a road blockade outside the factory, hundreds of police and auxiliary police officers were deployed to violently disperse the workers. Many workers were injured and detained. One worker reflected angrily, “We were trying to get back our hard-earned money but were subjected to physical assaults and arbitrary detentions. It is outrageous! Is this the People’s Police’s way of defending its citizens?” Yet, the Hong Kong factory owner refused to address the problem and declared bankruptcy on 21 October 2014, making it impossible for the workers to make their claims. Foundation Industrial (Far East) Ltd. is a recidivist in this regard. In August 2014, workers at its subsidiary Yunfu Gaojian Garment Ltd in Guangdong Province also launched a strike as they were not paid in July.


There were also missing contributions to social security premiums at Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Company in Shenzhen, a supplier of UNIQLO and G2000, and at Huixin Precision Components Co. Ltd., a supplier of Sony and Panasonic.

 

 
Wife of Yang Dongsheng wrote to the police, holding it accountable for possibly causing Yang’s health to deteriorate, by denying him family visits and medication.
 

Strikers assaulted in the factory and detained for “sabotaging production and business operation”

It is a worrying trend that workers are increasingly being threatened or assaulted by police whilst defending their rights. After the brutal assaults against workers at Artigas (detailed reports are available in the previous quarterly), workers at Sunsang Accessories Co of Panyu District, Guangzhou, jointly-owned by Hong Kong, Macaoese and Taiwanese capital were arbitrarily detained for “sabotaging production and business operation”. Workers started a strike on 16 September 2014, to protest against its relocation without consulting the workers, missing social security premiums over the years, absence of paid annual leave and statutory holidays and unpaid overtime wages. In late August 2014 when workers discussed their unfair treatment at the factory, managerial staff ridiculed them saying, “even if you produce more products, the company will only pay you the legal minimum wages for Panyu District. You can stay and quit as you wish.” Such a nasty attitude outraged the workers and they demanded to negotiate with the management. Yet, the employer ignored their lawful demands and called the police to threaten the workers, leading to the strike in September.


The struggle lasted for three months. Yet, workers were either turned down or suppressed by the employer, police and the authorities at the provincial, municipal, street and community committee levels. On 22 September 2014, 116 workers petitioned the Labour Inspection Team (a similar department to the Labour Department in Hong Kong and whose responsibility it is to handle labour disputes). The Labour Inspection Team sided with the employer and forced the workers to drop their demands, threatening them with prison terms. During those three months, 14 workers were detained and one of the workers’ representatives, Yang Dongsheng, suffered from a serious liver disease and needed daily medication. However the Dongguan Police Station strictly refused his wife’s request to visit and bring him medicine. Among the detained workers, seven faced the criminal charge of “sabotaging production and business operation”, and were released on bail after some 20 days of detention.

 

Peng Jiayong was assaulted and sent to hospital.

 

Violence to silence labour organizations in recent months

Since the second half of 2014, the Chinese Government has been frequently questioning and monitoring foreign funding, putting enormous pressure on NGOs, especially those which are working on “sensitive issues” such as labour rights. On 16 June 2014, the “Administrative methods of social organizations in Guangzhou City” was adopted and stated that “a social organization with ‘major funding from foreign organizations’ should be considered as ‘a branch, a representative organization of a foreign organization, or an organization which is effectively controlled and administrated by a foreign organization in this city’ and therefore, its registration should be revoked.” When “a revoked social organization continues to operate as a social organization”, it was to be treated as “an illegal social organization”. These regulations led to a loud outcry from the NGOs and were later removed from the finalized “Administrative methods of social organizations in Guangzhou City”. Currently China’s proposed law on foreign NGOs is undergoing a public consultation. This law attempts to tighten control over foreign NGOs and their partners, leaving little room for them to operate.

Workers’ representatives demanded help from the
Labour Bureau, to claim back years of missing
social insurance and housing fund premiums,
compensation based on their years of services
from Fushan Arts & Crafts Co., Ltd.

In fact, labour organizations have suffered from violence and evictions since 2012. In recent months, physical assaults or police harassment have been taking place frequently, making their survival even more difficult. On 2 April 2015, Peng Jiayong, Liu Shaoming, and Deng Xiaoming, volunteers at the Haige Workers’ Services Centre were forcibly abducted to Yakou Police Station in Zhongshan City by some 30 self-proclaimed policemen and unidentified persons. Deng and Liu were released after eight hours in custody and Peng was continuously attacked by the police officers throughout the detention time, resulting in many injuries in his loin, ribs, back of his head, right leg and other parts of his body. The police refused his repeated requests for medical treatment.

In the past year, the local governments and Hong Kong-owned enterprises have been working closely together to further violently suppressed strikes. Ironically, the number of strikes continues to rise under such harsh conditions, which clearly shows that crackdowns fail to resolve labour conflicts and lead to deteriorating labour relations. The only way out is equal negotiation between employees and employers.

 

 

Feminist activists detained ahead of International Women’s Day

10

Jun 2015

Actions of Hong Kong organizations to call for the five feminists’ release.

 

On International Women’s Day, activists from both China and Hong Kong organized campaign programmes to fight against sexual harassment. The Women’s Committee of the HKCTU hosted a press conference and taught self-defence on the streets. However, five feminist activists in China, Wang Man, Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wu Rongrong and Zheng Churan, were detained by the Chinese police and sent to a detention centre in Beijing on the Eve of International Women’s Day. They were detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after planning a multi-city protest aimed at bringing an end to sexual harassment on public transport. They were then cut off from the world and even their families and lawyers could not contact them. The Women’s Committee of the HKCTU, the Association for the Advancement of Feminism and Amnesty International then launched a series of solidarity actions, prior to their release on 13 April 2015. This case, known internationally as that of the “Feminist Five”, has shocked the world. Yet, what impact does it have on the feminist movement and the labour movement in China and Hong Kong? How do the organizations which advocated for their release see it? This quarterly would like to look into the details.

 

Wei Tingting Wang Man Li Tingting Zheng Churan Wu Rongrong

 

Wu Guijun, a labour activist who was detained for a year due to his participation in a strike, told us that he personally would not be held back by this kind of crackdown but grassroots workers may be affected. “Workers tend to have a sense of fear. Local governments often use such tricks to suppress labour activists and workers’ representatives, as they are not held legally accountable while they can lock you up for 37 days.” How then should workers deal with such a brutal law enforcement and juridical system? Wu believes, “a lawyers’ network is essential to back workers’ collective actions up. Lawyers have to stand up, provide support when things go wrong. Workers must be very scared when they are first locked up and under the current system only lawyers can get in touch with detained workers.”


Apart from the support of lawyers, civil society’s voices and actions, inside and outside China, have played a significant role in the Feminist Five’s case. “This incident illustrates the importance of international solidarity among feminist organizations. Seeing many global organizations joining our petition campaign to call for their release within only a few days, we felt very empowered. I respect the Feminist Five’s courage and the bravery the mainland Chinese supporters showed.” said Luk Kit-ling, chairwoman of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism.


Laiha Cheung, vice-chairwomen of the HKCTU and member of the Women’s Committee said it was an undeniable responsibility to support the Chinese feminist activists. “We are rather lucky in Hong Kong. We have not encountered too much suppression when fighting for women’s rights. Thus, we have to support our fellow feminists, to care about Chinese women’s rights and defend human rights together.”


While the Feminist Five have been released, the charges against them remain. This means that they could be detained and criminalized at any time. In other words, our quest is not yet over, we have to continue campaigning until their charges are dropped.

 

One Year Anniversary of the Yue Yuen Workers’ Strike: Conditions and Voices of Workers

10

Jun 2015

This article is written based on Qinyue's article namely, One Year Anniversary of the Yue Yuen Workers' Strike: What you should know" on "Voice of Hammer"

 

In Apr 2014, Hong Kong labour organizations protests at Yue Yuen Headquarters and major sportswear stores.
 

April 14, 2015 was the one-year anniversary of the mass strike by the workers at Yue Yuen,a footwear manufacturer. On April 14, 2014, all 50,000 workers from the Yue Yuen factories went on strike to demand that the management make up for the shortage in its contributions to their social insurance, which it had failed to pay in full. At the beginning, there were only 1,000 workers. A few days later, all 50,000 workers from the 6 plants owned by the company in Dongguan joined the strike. Labour groups in Hong Kong (including HKCTU), the USA, Australia and the UK demonstrated at offices and shops of Yue Yuen’s clients, which are branded sportswear companies. In the end, the management agreed to pay the arrears to its contribution to workers social insurance and housing fund. The management also promised to give workers an additional 230 yuan monthly living allowance. Has the management kept its promise? Are the workers satisfied? Let’s have a look at Qinyue’s survey published on “Voice of the Hammer” on Weixin, an online forum in mainland China.

Photos of Yue Yuen strike.

 

The Cause of the Strike—the Social Insurance and Labour Contract Pitfall

Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd. is the largest footwear manufacturer in the world. Its clients include most branded sportswear companies, such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok. Yue Yuen’s net profit in 2013 was more than HK$ 3.3 billion. However, since the company established its plants in Dongguan in 1988, it has never abided by the law and has never paid the full sum of social insurance calculated on the basis of workers’ wages. Neither has it contributed to their housing fund. Moreover, since 2006, Yue Yuen has changed the name of its factories as well as the name of the persons to which the factories are registered. Despite this, the factories’ old names are still used in labour contracts. It is therefore doubtful whether these labour contracts are legal.

 

The One-Year Anniversary of the Strike — Payment of Social Insurance Contribution Arrears

According to some Yue Yuen workers, the company has paid back the arrears to the social insurance and housing fund separately. The arrears are paid in instalments by grouping workers according to how long they have worked for the company. Last year during the strike, some workers argued that it was the management that had violated the law but it was the workers who had suffered. They therefore demanded that the payment on the part of the workers be paid by the management as well. Some workers said that if the payment had been deducted every month from their income, they would have felt less pressure. It would be very difficult for an average working class family to find the money to pay a lump sum all of a sudden. Most workers would be forced to give up paying the arrears. Because of pressure coming from the management and the government, workers were forced to resume work and these demands were never met. Now the workers’ concern has become a reality.


According to the workers, when the company is ready to pay back an instalment of the contribution arrears, the workers are only given three days to prepare their contribution, which is to be given to the management. No delay is permitted and workers can only choose to pay promptly or give up paying a part or the full sum of their contribution to the social insurance. Some workers who have no money or do not have a stable income end up not paying the contribution to their pension.


One worker, who is over 40 years old, has worked for Yue Yuen for 15 to 16 years. He has to pay over 20,000 yuan for social insurance as well as the housing fund, which means he needs to pay a total of 50,000 yuan. Since he has no money, he has to borrow it from his friends. He has worked in the factory for a long time. After paying the arrears, the total number of years he has contributed to the pension is 15 years. Now it is possible for workers to find out the status of their social insurance contributions from the system.

 

In Apr 2014, Hong Kong labour organizations protests at Yue Yuen Headquarters and major sportswear stores.

 

Wages

Yue Yuen has a number of plants in Dongguan and the way they calculate workers’ wages are very similar. It is based on the basic wage + length of service + 100% attendance award + living allowance + OT payment + other awards. The basic wage is set at the same level as Dongguan’s minimum wage which was 1,310 yuan a month. Last year during the strike, the management proposed to provide an additional 230 yuan monthly living allowance. When the workers demanded that the increment be added to the basic wage their request was refused. How much do the workers of the giant footwear manufacturer earn? According to a worker of the Old No. 3 Plant, their basic wage is very low and workers are not allowed to work for more than 36 hours overtime every month. The workers therefore earn as little as 2,700 to 2,800 yuan a month, and this is before worker’s contribution to social insurance is deducted. In other plants, workers can do overtime work for as many as 80 hours a month. When they do, workers earn about 3,000 yuan.


The Trade Union’s Re-election?

After the strike, a re-election of the trade union was held and trade union committee members were nominated and elected in proportion to the number of workers in each department and in each plant. Most candidates were managers. One worker said that a colleague, who was a trade union committee member, had told him in private that the trade union had met and that there was no use in seeking help from trade union committee members when an employee had a problem. He told the story of a worker who had worked in another Yue Yuen plant and who wanted to pay the social insurance and housing fund arrears. He needed his personnel information from the old plant but could not find it when he went there. He asked for help from the trade union committee member in his own department (who was the head of the department) but he was told that nothing could be done. In the end, the worker gave up the social insurance that he had had for a few years. For most workers, it is a common consensus that the trade union is useless and they would not seek help from the trade union on their own initiative when they are faced with a problem...

 

 

HKCTU June 4th Declaration on 2015

02

Jun 2015

 

Under the one-party dictatorship, workers in China are still deprived of the three labour rights: freedom of association, the right to strike, and the right to collective bargaining. Their struggles for labour rights often lead to oppression from government officials and employers. Meanwhile, due to the undemocratic political system and collusion between government and enterprises, workers in Hong Kong are similarly deprived of standard working hours and the right to collective bargaining.

 

As Chinese workers become aware of their legal rights, they are more courageous in their struggles which are also becoming more frequent. In the meantime, apart from forcing labour organizations to close down their offices, local governments are gradually turning to the use of violence and detention as repressive means against workers who are often forced to accept resignation compensation which is much lower than what is stipulated in the law.   In the first six months of 2015, there were at least three cases of labour disputes in which police broke into the venues where workers were meeting. They beat up and arbitrarily arrested staff of labour organizations and workers representatives. At least 7 labour activists are now in prison (see name list below).  Some of them are serving life or long term imprisonment due to their support of the 1989 Democratic Movement or organizing independent labour movement.  There are also innumerable but undocumented cases of labour activists who are detained or criminalized.

Since the second half of 2014, the Chinese government has been tightening its surveillance of mainland NGOs that receive overseas funding and are stifling the development of the civic society and the labour movement. On June 16th, 2014, the Guangzhou Government passed the ordinance of “Community Organizations Management Directives”, stipulating that any NGO primarily funded by an overseas NGO would be defined as a branch of the overseas NGO, allowing its activities to be restricted or even banned. The draft Foreign NGOs Management Law and the National Security Law will be reviewed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress this year. The purpose of the new laws is to block mainland NGOs from building connections and receiving support from overseas. Under the new laws, Chinese people’s right to free association will be further curtailed.

We call on the Hong Kong and International Community to continue to focus on labour rights in China and urge the Chinese Government to immediately:

  1. Release all imprisoned labour activists, and stop all suppression and violent acts against labour organizations and workers' representatives;
  2. Ratify ILO Conventions No. 87 and No. 98; namely the implementation of the right to organize trade unions and collective bargaining, the elimination of severe constraints on domestic NGOs, the protection of the freedom of association and the establishment of the three labour rights;
  3. Implement strict law enforcement to severely penalize enterprises for labour rights infringement and to protect labour rights

 

Labour Day Declaration on Ending Violence against Labour Activists

24

Apr 2015

 

Since 2012, the Mainland labour NGOs has been politically oppressed by forcing them to move out from their offices. However, the oppression has been escalating to detaining and seriously assaulting labour NGOs’ staff by police recently. HKCTU is going to publish a Labour Day Declaration on ending violence against labour activists and calling for your support to condemn the abuse of police power against labour activists in China. This Labour Day Declaration will be announced by HKCTU at Victoria Park before the beginning of Hong Kong’s May Day Rally, it would be submitted to Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R. on 5 May 2015. The deadline for collecting signature would be 4 May 2015. Should you have any enquiries, please feel free to contact Mr. Wong at 2770 8668 or by email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Sign now!

 

Labour Day Declaration on Ending Violence against Labour Activists

Condemning violence against labour movement & calling for an immediate stop to violent assaults

 

Since 2012, the HKCTU has made several calls, demanding a halt to political oppression against labour organizations in China. In recent years, whilst Chinese workers’ awareness is growing and workers are getting more vocal to resist labour violations, the political space is also tightening. The oppression has been escalating, from forcing labour organizations to move out from their offices, to physical assaults against their staff members. On 31 December 2014, the HKCTU and Globalization Monitor jointly launched a global petition campaign, to address the violent attack on Zeng Feiyang, the head of Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Center, as well as many other similar cases. Until April 2015, staff members of Chinese labour organizations have been living under consistent threats of violent assaults, some have been detained and seriously assaulted by police.

 

Abuse of police power Groundless crackdown on workers' rights-defending actions

On 2 April 2015, Peng Jiayong, Liu Shaoming, Deng Xiaoming who were volunteers of Haige Workers’ Services Centre, were forcibly abducted to Yakou Police Station in Zhongshan City. The three volunteers have been assisting workers to negotiate with the Japanese-invested Tsuiheng Package Plant in Zhongshan City, demanding workers’ long missing social insurance premiums and redressing other violations. Peng Jiayong was continuously attacked by the police officers throughout the detention time, resulting in many injuries in his loin, ribs and back of the head, right leg and other parts of his body. Peng was taken to Panyu Shiqiao Hospital for treatment.

 

On 19 April 2015, Meng Han, a staff member of Panyu Migrant Worker Documentation Center was forcibly taken away by nearly 100 police officers while he was assisting workers at Panyu Lide Shoes Industry Company Limited, to re-elect their representatives in a hall. Workers’ representatives were also attacked and detained. After a large number of workers gathered in front of the police station, Meng and workers’ representatives were finally released.

 

In the past few years, labour organizations have been forced to move out from their offices, their registrations were voided, their directors were being arbitrarily detained. We continuously receive news about strikers facing violent crackdown and detention for standing up for their rights. As workers are getting more aware of their rights, the local stabilizing force appears to get out of control. The law enforcement agency openly attacks staff of labour organizations, police assaults striking workers’ representatives and in some areas, they are collaborating with local thugs to suppress workers’ collective actions. The frequency and scale of these attacks are getting outrageously high. Inside China, the government has been emphasising “rule of law” and internationally, it has been marketing itself as a civilized and peaceful rise of China. However, the local governments are allowed to act as hooligans and law enforcement agency openly violates laws, physically attacks workers and threatens workers’ organizations. Obviously China talks the talk but it doesn't walk the walk.

 

The Origin of Labour Day is to memorise the workers in Chicago who were killed in a government-led violent crackdown. The spirit of May Day is to fight against political and capital powers which suppress workers’ rights with violence. Thus, the HKCTU is calling you, who cares about labour rights from all over the world:

 

1.     To condemn the abuse of police power in China, to demand an immediate stop to violence and oppression against labour organizations and workers’ representatives;

 

2.     To call on the Chinese Government to investigate the cases of violent assaults, which involve officials and civil servants, to protect civil rights as its fundamental obligations;

 

3.     To request the Chinese government to ratify and to fulfill the requirements of No. 87 of the International Labour Convention, to protect the workers and citizens that can enjoy inviolability of freedom of association and the right to organize

 

Initiated by:

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

 

23 April 2015

 

Please click here for the petition: http://goo.gl/idlKaU

 

Relevant news' reports about the above violent assault:

 6 Apr, 2015. The Vancouversun , “China beset by strikes as working class awakens” 

http://www.vancouversun.com/business/China+beset+strikes+working+class+awakens/10949506/story.html

 

At the sharp end of the workers’ movement in China: The Zhongshan Cuiheng strike

http://www.clb.org.hk/en/content/sharp-end-workers%E2%80%99-movement-china-zhongshan-cuiheng-strike

 

18 Apr, 2015. Union Solidarity International, “China’s labour activists unhindered by government clampdown”

http://usilive.org/chinas-labour-activists-unhindered-by-government-clampdown/

The crackdown on the labor movement escalates

02

Apr 2015

Striking workers in factory detained and beaten

Artigas take advantage of loopholes in Law
Workers’ pensions go down the drain

 

On Dec 10th, 2014, nearly a thousand workers from the Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Co. Ltd. in Longhua District, Shenzhen went on strike twice to protest the company’s non-payment of social security and housing provident fund. Artigas is the supplier of Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo, and Hong Kong brand G2000.


On Dec 18th, 2014, several hundreds of policemen stormed Artigas, with 31 strike leaders were detained and a number of workers beaten, including pregnant women, and one of the detained workers hospitalized with a severe head injury. However, Artigas stood firm and refused any compensation.


Artigas is a subsidiary of the Hong Kong based Lever Garment Limited, with Uniqlo and G2000 as her main customers. Most of the workers at Artigas – having worked in the factory for more than 10 years, some even more than 20 years – Artigas started paying pension insurance for some workers only in 2003. Some female workers learned that Artigas only started to pay for their pension as recently as 3 years ago, despite over 20 years of service in the company. Senior female workers approaching the retirement age of 50, suddenly learned they were not entitled to pension, as they did not meet the 15 years minimum of social security payments.

 

Fearing the enterprise would sneak the shipments out, workers at Artigas took turns to guard at the factory.

The boss of Lever Garment Ltd was accompanied by the police, to order the workers first to return to work and then negotiate.

 

RMB 20 to blackmail workers Striking workers threatened with absenteeism

Despite demands from the workers, the company only agreed verbally to compensate the workers for all non-payments, and the workers launched a strike on Dec. 10th. At the onset of the strike, the workers took shifts, despite cold weather, to prevent the employers from smuggling goods out of the factory. On Dec. 12th, local reporters were denied access to the factory premises and were only able to interview workers through the main gate.  During the interview, a security chief pushed an elderly worker on the ground, but was immediately surrounded by the workers. He was forced an apology for the incident.

Artigas put out a notice, rewarding those returning
to work 20 Yuan and threatening to treat strikers
as abstention from work without permission

 

On the sixth day of the strike, Dec. 15th, in an effort to coax the striking workers back to work, the employer offered a bonus of RMB 20 per day. Meanwhile, the employer also announced that any worker who went on strike for more than 3 days would be treated as absent. The workers denounced such threats and sneered at the employer for using a mere RMB 20 bribe in response to their demands for social insurance and provident fund. One female worker said, “I won’t take it if even they give me RMB 2000. All I want is my pension. If they give me back my social insurance, I would even work for them for free for one month.”

 

After the crackdown, workers were forced to work.
They were closely supervised by security personnel or police. A worker described at micro-blog, “if we slow down, we would be violently assaulted.”

At 7am, 18 December 2014, some 300 policemen stormed Artigas.

 

Employer makes hollow promises to negotiate on one hand Collaborates with police to crackdown on the other hand

On the same day, the workers issued a demand to the employer for collective bargaining.  The employer responded to the request affirmatively the next day and the first meeting was scheduled for the morning of Dec. 18th. Meanwhile, the employer also issued a memo supporting to a suggestion from the workers that staff representatives should be elected through direct election. However, at 7:00 a.m. Dec. 18th, the chief of the Lever Garment Limited stormed the factory with 300 policemen and insisted that negotiations would not commence until the workers returned to work. The striking workers unanimously rejected the demand. At 9:00 a.m., in an attempt to deliver shipments to Uniqlo, the employer had police disperse the workers violently, covering it up as a fire drill. Thirty one workers were arrested and many injured, with one of the injured workers hospitalized due to severe head injury. Other workers, including pregnant women, were beaten by the police. The employer demanded the workers to return to work, and to elect staff representatives that would be acceptable to the employer. The detained workers were coerced by the police to sign an agreement giving up their rights. However, all workers refused to give in and were released 12 hours later.


Mr. Yau Tze Ken, Lecturer from the Department of Social Science, Hong Kong University stated that, “in the past, Mainland Police would normally intervene a strike only when the workers starting to set up road blockades. However, the Artigas workers were violently dispersed by the police even when they were only striking in the factory premises.  Furthermore, in recent months many labor rights activists have been detained by the police and expelled by their landlords, indicating the government is toughening its crackdown on the labor movement.”

 

Artigas workers lodged a complaint to the Guangdong Provincial Federation of Trade Unions.

On their way to complain, workers were repeatedly assaulted and intimidated.

 

Official union threatens petitioning workers

The workers continued to struggle by reporting the legal violations of Artigas to the Housing Fund Administration, the Social Security Bureau, the Shenzhen Municipal Federation of Trade Unions, the Complaints Receiving Office of the Municipal Government, and the the Guangdong Federation of Trade Unions. After days of persistence and actions, a worker called Ah En claimed they have successfully forced Artigas to repay all the Housing Fund in that were in arrears. However, during the process of petition, many workers were subject to violence and threats. On Jan. 14th, while on their way to the Guangdong Federation of Trade Unions, workers were chased and blocked by both police and officials of GDFTU president, Wang Jianping.

 


Social Security Bureau connives on non-payment Artigas workers’ pensions go down the drain

According to the ‘Social Security Law’ and regulations stipulated by the Shenzhen Government, it is the employers’ responsibility to enroll their employees in the social security program within the first month of employment, and to pay an equivalent of 13% of total salary as a pension insurance fee. If a corporation fails to make social insurance contribution, it breaks the social insurance law already. A fined interest would be charged for late overdue payment that is an additional payment of fines other than the payment of the social security premium. However, the Social Security Bureau claimed that they were unable to recover more than two years of pension insurance in arrears for the Artigas workers, as they lacked the judicial authority to do so under the Administrative Law. Thus, using a loophole in the Administrative Law, Artigas refused to repay the pension insurance contributions beyond two years.

On 24 December 2014, numerous unions and labour groups in Hong Kong protested at a UNIQLO store.

 

On 24 December 2014, numerous unions and labour groups in Hong Kong protested at a G2000 store.Artigas.

 

After a series of protests and actions, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Retail, Commerce, and Clothing Industry General Union, and a number of Labor NGOs finally forced a response from Uniqlo and G2000. On Jan 20th, Uniqlo announced they had called on Artigas management to initiate negotiations with the workers and their representatives. They also stated that they respect the rights of the workers and would never condone any act of violence or retaliation. In an announcement made on Jan. 18th, Michael Tien – the Chairman of G2000, a member of the National People’s Congress, and and a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council – claimed that he had urged Artigas to resolve the dispute by means of negotiation. Meanwhile, his company terminated new procurement from Artigas as of early January, claiming that no further decisions would be made until the situation cleared up. However, in the view of HCKTU, it is not enough for G2000 to merely terminate orders to dissociate themselves from the dispute. If they are committed to carrying out their social responsibilities, they should act to ensure that Artigas workers are afforded their legal rights and receive all the pension insurance in arrears. The HKCTU will closely monitor the development of the situation.

 

Violent assaults, lawful dismantling

31

Mar 2015

Violent assaults, lawful dismantling
A harsh winter for labour organizations

 

Rampant violent attacks on labour organizations

In recent years, there have been repeated attacks of various forms on labour organizations, their organizers and workers. Since 2012, many organizations have found it difficult to operate, living under threats of violent assault. The office of Little Grass Workers’ Home in Shenzhen was violently vandalized by thugs and the organization was forced to relocate again and again. Jin Shichang of the Migrant Workers’ Centre in Zhongshan was beaten up by security guards paid by employers, and was forced to leave Guangdong. In Zhejiang Province, the office of Little Fish Labour Rights Protection Centre in Yongkang was smashed and Huang Caigen, head of the organization, was attacked and injured by thugs late at night. Zhang Zhiru of Shenzhen Chunfeng Labor Disputes Services Centre was repeatedly forced to relocate, his car was vandalized and he was threatened on the phone again and again. The violent assault on Zeng Feiyang on 26 December 2014, the head of Pan Yu Migrant Worker Documentation Center PMWDC, was the most recent case of violence: Zeng was brutally attacked by 4 unidentified thugs.


On one hand, local law enforcement authorities often turn a blind eye to these cases and leave thugs to walk free. This negligence promotes a continuous expansion of violence against labour groups. On the other hand, authorities intimidate the labour groups by frequently searching their offices, and detaining and questioning their staff members. For example, on 14 January, the head of one labour organization, Foshan Nanfeiyian Social Service Centre, was taken away for nearly 8 hours, for questioning related to “disrupting the order of business”.

 

Global support for labour organizations in China

A series of violent assaults against labour organizations generated widespread concern, both locally and globally. From late December 2014 to Jan 9, 2015, an urgent appeal petition was launched in China, with more than 25 Chinese organizations and 3,000 workers co-signing it. On 31 December 2014, the HKCTU and Globalization Monitor launched a global campaign, and by 3pm on 15 January 2015, 419 organizations (including the International Trade Unions Confederation, and International Union of Food Workers) and 3,214 individuals registered their support for Chinese labour organizations. On 16 January, the HKCTU and numerous Hong Kong labour groups staged a protest at the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, calling on the Chinese government to immediately stop the violent oppression against labour organizations.


On 16 January 2015, the HKCTU and various labour groups handed in their joint petition to the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong

Chinese labour organizations and workers signed a petition to condemn violence.

 

A ban on NGOs receiving foreign funding

Apart from violent assaults, harsh legislation is going to further destablize the labour NGOs. According to a report from the Hong Kong newspaper Mingpao Daily, the Guangzhou municipal government has considered and adopted “Administrative methods of social organizations in Guangzhou City” in its executive meeting on 16 June 2014. The methods clearly state that a social organization with “major funding from foreign organizations” should be considered as “a branch, a representative organization of a foreign orgnization, or an organization which is effectively controlled and administrated by a foreign organization in this city” and therefore, its registration would be revoked. When “a revoked social organization continues to operate as a social organization”, it would be treated as “an illegal social organization”. In the view of HKCTU, it is highly possible that such control could be adopted nationwide. In early January 2015, the Xinhua News reported that, to ensure and standardize the legal operation of foreign NGOs in China, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress would examine a draft bill regulating foreign NGOs1. The bill would specify the application procedure of foreign NGOs’ registration and operation, as well as the consequences of their unlawful acts. “I believe many social organizations would be banned. Our Migrant Workers’ Centre would be taken down.” Zeng Feiyang, director of one of the first grassroots organizations to support workers’ rights told Mingpao. “It is the worst of the draconian laws to ban unauthorized preparatory activities of a social organization”, hes explained “Where is our freedom of association (guaranteed by Constitution) then? This Regulation itself is violating our Constitution.”


In fact, it is not only foreign NGOs that are being targeted. On 16 October 2014, the Civil Affairs Bureau of Guangzhou City issued a “Guangzhou City’s Working Regulation on Banning Illegal Social Organizations (Draft)” calling for a ban on social organizations with “unauthorized preparatory activities of a social organization”. This Regulation created heated debates in the media. NGOCN, a charity website in Guangzhou conducted a survey and, among the 221 valid responses, found 64.9% of NGO staff members believe their organization would be affected by this Regulation, if it is passed.


From local to national legislation, from relaxing the registration procedure to again tightening it, from cutting off funding to forced disappearance of NGOs’ directors, NGOs in China have gone through an extremely tough year in 2014. Some live continuously under the threat of being immediately banned by authorities. For workers, this cutting off of channels to seek help will only worsen the situation. From now on, they are being forced to walk a tougher path to safeguard their rights and they will have to rely on their own empowerment.

 

1 New Regulation in Guangzhou to worsen the survival of NGOs, Mingpao Daily, 3 January 2015

The impact of the Umbrella Movement

31

Mar 2015

on the labour movement in China and Hong Kong

 

Strike and assembly of the social services workers on 29 September 2014.

 

The quest for democracy is shared by Chinese and Hong Kong people

Between 28 September and 15 December 2014, the largest civil disobedience campaign in the history of Hong Kong took place in the form of an urban occupation, and drew global attention. Also known as the Umbrella Movement, this 79-day occupation set out to demand genuine universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017, and abolition of the functional constituency seats in the Legislative Council (hereafter: Legco). Support poured in from all over the world, some of it from mainland China, with people willing to pay a heavy price for Hong Kong’s democracy and universal suffrage.

 

Background

In 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (hereafter: SCNPC) confirmed the schedule for Hong Kong to achieve universal suffrage, stating that the Chief Executive in 2017 and all Legco seats in 2020, would be elected through universal suffrage. Yet on 31 August 2014, the same SCNPC made a decision, setting limits for the 2017 Chief Executive election. The decision stated that a nominating committee of 1,200 members would be formed to nominate two to three candidates. In other words, such an election would not be what is commonly understood to be a democratic form of universal suffrage. As a result, civil society considers it “the fake universal suffrage”


The dock workers answered the HKCTU’s General Strike Call, to protest police brutality against demonstrators.

The Swire Beverages Employees General Union supported the General Strike initiated by the HKCTU.

 

The beginning of the Umbrella Movement; workers’ participation and support

After the “fake universal suffrage” proposal was disclosed, protests were organized all over Hong Kong. Between 22 and 26 September, university and secondary school students launched strikes. On 28 September, the police fired 87 cannisters of tear gas and pepper spray at protesters, who were staging a sit-in at the Government headquarters in Admiralty. Protesters had nothing but umbrellas to protect themselves yet more people joined them, and the number of participants and occupied zones increased. This was the start of the Umbrella Movement, sometimes also called “Occupy Central,” which lasted for more than two months.


The HKCTU called for a general strike on 29 September. Calling for a strike with political demands in a short notice was very difficult as there was no legal protection for employee joining a strike in such circumstance. At last, there were some unions such as The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union, Swire Beverages (Hong Kong) Employees General Union, Union of Hong Kong Dockers, Hong Kong Disneyland Cast Members' Union , Social Welfare Organizations Employees Union and others answered this call to a certain extent.  Many unions and workers participated and supported the movement in their own ways. According to an estimation of Chinese University’s Communication and Public Opinion Survey, the total participants of the Umbrella Movement could be up to 1.2 million; one sixths of the population in Hong Kong.


A crackdown can never beat our determination to fight for democracy

According to the Chinese website Weiquanwang, by the end of 2014, some 30 Mainland Chinese, including artists and citizens, were detained and arrested, due to their support for Umbrella Movement. Four artists from the Artist Village Gallery of Song Zhuang, in the Tongzhou District of Beijing, were detained for showing sympathy to the Umbrella Movement through their artwork. Making selfies to support Occupy Central was prohibited, and 10 citizens in Beijing who did so were detained on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble".


In Hong Kong, quite a number of worker activists were detained due to their involvement of Occupy Central. On 11 December 2014, some 200 people were arrested when an injunction against the occupation in Admirality was enforced and police conducted a clearance. Many of those arrested were workers, including five of whom were staff or members of the HKCTU.
Ah-Man, a barbender, decided to be arrested in the middle of the movement. He jokingly explained that he had been a believer in “peace, rationality, non-violence and no foul language,” but then he realized “some of us need to think that each of our involvement is significant and be willing to get arrested, or else we can never join our forces together.”


Simpson is a commuittee member of the Logistics Industry and Container Truck Drivers Union. He explained that he believes democracy is the foundation of livelihood, and that without democracy, collusion between the government and business could not be checked. He gave an example in his industry, which has been long affected by the government’s traffic planning, including the lengthy disputes of the repurchase of franchises of two main tunnels for releasing traffic jam.


On 11 December 2014, some 200 protesters stayed and waited for the final clearance in Admiralty.

 

Looking into the future

One might say that the Umbrella Movement failed to achieve any concrete and immediate results, yet it has allowed many Hong Kongers, especially the younger generation, to become politically awakened. Furthermore, even though news has been blocked and distorted, it has still reached some in mainland China and could have far-reaching impact in future.

‹ First  < 2 3 4 5 >