China Labour Quarterly

Corporate and Government Collaborte to Suppress Strike

Workers Claim Victory Through Collective Bargaining

Guangzhou Panyu Simone Handbag Co. Ltd. (“Panyu Simone”) is a South Korean-owned enterprise that established in 1992. Earlier in March this year, more than 1000 workers from the factory went on a nine-day strike to fight for remuneration on pension and other work-related benefits.  Throughout the strike, the workers displayed tremendous solidarity and finally forced the employer to respond their demands by means of collective bargaining.


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A savoir or a bully?

Discussion on Chinese investments in Africa

Since China's grand One Belt One Road strategy came into action, China's overseas investment has become a hot topic. On 2 February 2018, the HKCTU hosted a discussion on “Chinese investments in Africa”, invited Ms Daisy Chan, who got her master's degree in international political economy of the University of Warwick; Mr Fredrik Fan, who got his master's degree in labour policies and globalization of University of Kassel, as speakers. The two speakers shared two case studies of China's overseas investment, to outline the behavioursof Chinese enterprises in Ethiopia and Kenya.


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Breakthrough of the Saipan Industrial Action

US Labour Department's Intervention led to Four Contractors Repaying USD 14 million Compensation

In March 2017, a worker fell from and died in a construction site of a casino on Saipan Island, a project invested by Hong Kong listed company Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd (HKEx stock code: 1076).  The investigation conducted by the FBI confirmed that the contractors had employed a large number of illegal workers from China. Moreover, the four contractors, namely Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China Limited, Nanjing Beilida New Material System Engineering, Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction Decoration and Sino Great Wall Co., were found to owe workers their wages, fail to provide labour insurance, illegally withhold workers' passports and violate other labour legislations. An industrial action was triggered and workers demanded their missing wages and legal compensation. After a year of tug of war, finally a breakthrough takes place.

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We the Workers

Getting to know the labour activists

What is your first thought when you think of "labour movement"? Scenes of workers in strike, organizations holding banners in front of corporates' or government headquarters? News of workers' leaders being attacked, detained and prosecuted? We know indeed very little about labour movement, workers' organizers' life and daily challenges, apart from some short scenes of their struggles and demands broadcast in the news. “We the Workers”, a documentary documents labour activists in China, their living and working conditions between 2009 and 2015, to tell us more about labour movement in China.


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The future of labour NGOs?

A Response to Two Mindsets

On 3 December 2015, seven leaders of labour NGOs in Guangzhou were detained and four of them faced subsequent criminal prosecutions. Most of the affected NGOs were prominently active in assisting workers' collective struggles, pushing for collective bargaining between 2012 and 2015. Labour lawyers and some academics called this new type of NGOs as “movement-oriented NGOs”, in order to distinguish them from the social service-oriented NGOs and legal right-oriented NGOs. They also pointed out that movement-oriented NGOs would gradually help stimulate workers' needs. However, by the time research papers on movement-oriented NGOs were published in 2017, these NGOs either cease to exist or operate due to the crackdown in late 2015. Thus, among the labour rights supporters, some started to negate the role of labour NGOs. In this article, the author urges the Chinese labour rights supporters in China and overseas to give up on their polarizing opinions and objectively analyses the current causes and opportunities, so as to pursuit the goal of social justice determinately.

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China Labour Quarterly Issue 17


Mar 2018

Eviction of “Low-end Population”:
the Great Leap Forward of Xi Jin-ping’s “New Era”

In the previous winter, Cai Qi, the new secretary of Beijing municipal communist party, forcefully launched three controversial policies in order to build an unprecedented “New Beijing”.  These policies not only exposed the rashness of administration of the Xi Jin-ping regime, but also revealed the discrimination of municipal management against grassroots workers in China’s “new era”.

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Factory Automation = The Doom of Workers' Bargaining Power?

As automation of production is becoming an alternative solution for labour intensive industries to reduce labour cost, many workers lose their jobs as a result. Surprisingly,  resistance from the workers was almost non-existence over the past 3 years regarding the issue. Wong Yu, a postdoctoral researcher in the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, had been studying the impact of Dongguan's automation policy since 2014 and shared with us her insights on the issue.

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Disregard in Occupational Safety and Health Protection Continues to Haunt Chinese Workers

Occupational safety and health (OSH) of migrant workers has been a concern in the past years. In January 2017, a Chinese organization “Cocultivation Social Work Service Centre” released a research report, based on 1,410 visit reports of injured / sick workers compiled in 2016. Researchers visited victims of occupational hazards in 28 hospitals in Dongguan City over a span of 130 days in 2016, and revisited 80% of the workers to look into their background, labour conditions, rehabilitation and other aspects. The findings of this research are then put into this report. 

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Challenge to Monitor Labour Conditions as Business-Government Collusion Assaults Civil Society

Since 2014, HKCTU has been observing the operation of Hong Kong-invested enterprises in China closely. To expose the labour exploitations and the related collective actions in these enterprises, HKCTU released two “Monitoring Report on Collective Labour Disputes of Hong Kong Enterprises in China” (hereafter: Monitoring Report) in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The project continued in 2017 and on 29 December, the latest Monitoring Report was released. It does not cover only the Hong Kong listed companies' investment in China, but also the repression of civil society and the development of labour movement in China in the past years.

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Building Alliance Between Civil Societies in Opposing Authoritarian Hegemony

On 1 January 2017, the Law on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-Governmental Organizations within the Territory of China (the Foreign NGOs Law) became officially effective, marking the winter of the developing civil society in mainland China.  However, regulation on overseas civil organizations is not unique to China.  Worldwide, a number of countries have similar regulations and some have been in place for years, and respective civil societies have accumulated experiences in dealing with such monitoring and regulation.  Their experiences in coping with monitoring and regulation from the government are valuable references to civil society in mainland China.  In view of this, the HKCTU, together with the City University of Hong Kong, organized an international seminar on global development trends of civil societies.  Representatives of civil societies and trade unions from 8 countries were invited to have exchanges with local and mainland China civil societies. Participants learned from each other and inquired future directions for the movement.

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Volkswagen dispatch workers Struggle Continues, Hong Kong NGOs Demand Release on Workers’ Leaders

On 15 December 2017, the HKCTU, in collaboration with other labour organisations in Hong Kong, protested in the Volkswagen showroom in Wanchai for the unequal treatment between the dispatched workers and direct employees in Changchun factory and urge for the release on Fu Tien-bo, the workers representative in the factory. In the end of 2016, the dispatch workers in the Changchun factory were protesting for the unequal treatment as they have only half of the wages compare with the direct employees but most of them had worked there for more than 10 years. According to the Labour Contract Law in China, the dispatch workers must enjoy the same treatments as the directly employed workers. Also dispatched workers must be directly employed after 3 renewal on its contract. In that sense, the company were suspected for violating multiple labour laws. The protesters entered the showroom and ask the company to assign a representative to receive the petition letter, but the company did not receive the letter.

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China Labour Quarterly Issue 16


Oct 2017

Chinese Workers’ Labour Dispute in Saipan
Exposing Major Issues in Chinese Overseas Investment

This summer, an industrial action broke out on the quiet island of Saipan, a popular vacation destination in the western Pacific Ocean which is a commonwealth of the United States. Chinese construction workers, employed by Chinese out-contractors Metallurgical Corporation of China Limited, Nanjing Beilida New Material System Engineering and Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction Decoration staged a protest to claim missing wages and labour insurance while working on the Imperial Palace Casino Project owned by the Hong Kong listed company Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. According to the online version of People’s Daily, each of these workers paid 10,000 Yuan to the labour agencies before leaving China while being promised to earn 300 Yuan per day on Saipan Island, which is far lower than the local minimum wages. Furthermore, workers found themselves arriving at the island without valid work permit and their daily wages shrink to 200 Yuan. In March 2017, a worker fell from the construction site and died. It triggered workers’ anger and they started to fight for their rights. At the time of writing, their struggle is still ongoing with 37 workers, employed by Metallurgical Corporation of China Ltd., staying behind Saipan and demand for back wages from February 2017. Read more



Chinese Government Sentenced Rights Defending Reporters to Forbid Public’s Rights to Know

30 May this year, three Chinese labour activists, Huahai Feng, Li Zhao, and Su Heng were arrested in Jianxi Province, when investigating labour rights conditions in a shoe factory, the Huajian Group, that makes Ivanka Trump-branded shoes. Three people were detained for nearly a month being being released on June 28. Read more




Dispatched Workers  Protested for Equal Pay for Equal Work at FAW Volkswagen in Changchun

On 21 May 2017, dispatched workers from FAW Volkswagen’s plant in Changchun, China protested for “equal pay for equal work” at the Changchun Marathon. Three workers’ representatives, Fu Tianfu, Wang Shuai, Ai Zhenyu were detained shortly afterwards. At the time of writing, Wang and Ai have been released reportedly, while Fu remains detained. All three workers’ representatives might face criminal charges. Despite the suppression, the struggle goes on. In Germany, trade union of Mercedes Benz’s Bremen plant issued a statement to support the Changchun dispatched workers’ demands. The statement points out that in the first quarter of 2017, Volkswagen made a profit of 33.5 million Yuan and growth is expected to continue. While dispatched / subcontracted workers are putting in the same kind of work as regular workers, they should be treated equally. The German union also urged the authority to release the workers’ representatives immediately.  Read more



Under China’s Authoritarian Governance:
Hong Kong Marches Towards “Rule by Law”

When Typhoon Hato struck Hong Kong last month, the Hong Kong Observatory issued the Typhoon Signal No.10, which is the highest level of tropical cyclone warning signals in Hong Kong since 2012. Although no death was reported, the rampage of Hato was enough to cause widespread flooding, property damage, and put the city to a standstill.  Yet, the devastations caused by Hato are, by no means, comparable to another storm that shakes up the political landscape in the territory. Within one week, 16 young political prisoners emerged when 13 activists in the anti-northeast New Territories development demonstrations were first sentenced to 13 months in prison, followed by the Student-trio of the Umbrella Movement were later put behind bars from six to eight months. Read more



Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of Li Wangyang’s Death

6 June 2017 is the fifth anniversary of Li Wangyang’s death. The HKCTU held a candle light vigil at Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, with some 200 mourners commemorated him. Interviews of Li Wangyang and his friends were broadcasted, mourners brought flowers and signed condolences to pay their respects. Read more






China Labour Quarterly Issue 15


Jun 2017

Workers Made Scapegoats of “Economic Downturn”:
Guangdong Minimum Wage Frozen for Three Years

In 1993, China issued its first national regulations on enterprises’ statutory minimum wages and in 2004, it issued “Provisions on Statutory Minimum Wages” to further regulate it, requiring it to be reviewed once every two years, if not shorter. Except in 2009, when China was hit by the 2008 Financial Crisis and statutory minimum wage froze nationwide, all provinces have been in line with the legal requirement, i.e. adjusting statutory minimum wages once every two years. On 24 February 2017, the Guangdong Provincial Government issued a “Working Scheme on Reducing Costs for Real Economy Enterprises” (hereafter: the Scheme), stating that in order to reduce labour costs for enterprises, the statutory minimum wage would be reviewed once every three years and the statutory minimum wage for 2017 would be kept at the level of 2015. This is the first case in China, that minimum wage in a province remains unchanged for three years. Read more


Interview with Dr Eileen Yuk-ha Tsang,
an researcher of sex workers in China

China is estimated to have four to six million sex workers. However, the society still holds many misconceptions about this vast number of workers. In this issue of China Labour Quarterly, we are honoured to have Dr Eileen Tsang, assistant professor of Department of Applied Social Science of City University of Hong Kong to discuss the issue with. Dr. Tsang has conducted extensive research on sex workers in China in past years. Her research aims to understand sex workers from different perspectives and hopes to eliminate the prejudice the general public has developed against sex workers. Read more


Finding the Culprit behind Sino-Hong Kong Clashes
Class or Nationalist Conflicts?

In recent years, Chinese investment in Hong Kong has become a hot topic in the financial news. From McDonald's Corp. selling its controlling stake in its Hong Kong operations to CITIC Group, to China Telecom obtaining a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) license in Hong Kong, all indicate that Chinese capital is taking up a sizeable share of the market in Hong Kong. According to Census and Statistics Department’s report released in December 2016, near half of Hong Kong’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2015 came from the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, the three major hot spots of offshore companies; FDI from China amounted to only 27%. It is believed that a large amount of Chinese FDI entered the Hong Kong market via offshore companies, to avoid being identified. The case of “the 88 Queensway Group” in 2015 illustrates how Chinese capital invests in foreign countries through offshore companies, its intertwined relationship between Chinese Government, state-owned enterprises and alleged corruptions. Read more


Right to Communicate Violated:
Labour Activist Detained and Isolated for 16 Months

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. Read more





China Labour Quarterly Issue 14


Mar 2017

Foreign NGO Law
A Spell over China’s Civil Society

“Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administration of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations Activities within China” (hereafter Foreign NGO Law) came into effect on January 1, 2017. Together with the “Charity Law” which became effective since 1 September 2016, these two laws were implemented within a few months to regulate activities of civil organizations. In line with Xi Jinping’s approach of “governing the country by law”, they restricted citizens’ rights by legal frameworks to achieve political stabilization. The laws provided a more grounded legal base for arresting and prosecuting dissidents, so that it would not be necessary to use “pocket laws” such as “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “illegal assembly and disturbance of public order” in prosecution.  The Foreign NGO Law is actually tightening up the space of civil society.  The purpose of its legislation and its potential impact could be considered from two aspects: 1) the set-up of monitoring system, and 2) regulations on business scope. Read more

Chinese Capital Capturing Overseas Energy Industry

Due to the slowdown in China's economic growth and the growing domestic overcapacity in recent years, the Chinese Government and enterprises have participated in a number of overseas investment and construction projects. In December 2015, when Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, he promised to invest US $60 billion in Africa during the next three years and support local construction of roads and railways. Apart from Africa, Latin America is also the destination of China's production and capital. In this issue, we interviewed a German scholar Dr. Jörg Nowak (Assistant Professor (Visiting), Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong) who in recent years studied the process of strikes in India and Brazil, and witnessed Chinese enterprises attempting to invest or acquire Brazilian enterprises.  Read more


Chinese Workers Become the First Victim
of Continuous Foreign Investment Withdrawal

In mid-November 2016, Coca-Cola announced to sell its bottling assets in China to Swire Pacific Ltd and China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO). Under the realignment, Coca-Cola will cease to run bottling operations in mainland China. Workers in its plants in Jilin, Chongqing and Chengdu became worried about if the new employers would alter their labour conditions after the acquisition. Thus, they demand a buy-out offer with full severance payments from Coca-Cola and a guarantee from the new employees to reemploy them with the same terms and conditions (known as retrenchment before reinstatement). Yet, Coca-Cola’s silence angered workers leading to a strike on 21 November 2016. Police stepped in and seized the Chongqing plant. Numerous workers were assaulted and seven workers, including an expectant mother, were detained. Read more


International Labour Organization Urged  the Chinese Government
to Stop Suppression on Freedom of Association

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, Zeng Feiyang, Peng Jiayong, and Deng Xiaoming have been charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order”. Another detainee, He Xiaobo was accused of “embezzlement”. In September 2016, Zeng Feiyang was sentenced to 3 years in prison and suspended for 4 years; while Zhu Xiaomei and Tang Huanxing were sentenced to 1.5 years and suspended for 2 years.  Meng Han was later sentenced to 21 months in prison on November 2016. Read more

Torn Between Authoritarian Rule and Right-Wing Populism:
The New Challenge of Hong Kong's Democratic Labour Movement

The democratic labour movement in Hong Kong encountered numerous challenges in 2016. At the eve of May Day 2016, the major student unions from nine universities, which had previously been on friendly terms with the HKCTU, released a joint statement, declaring their withdrawal from the Solidarity March hosted by the HKCTU. In their eyes, union struggles are “simply a matter of rituals”, “claiming to safeguard workers’ rights and interests, pleading the communist-run Hong Kong Government to pity and improve Hong Kong people’s situation, yet no improvement on labour rights has been achieved in Hong Kong.” Since its establishment in 1990, the HKCTU has always practiced social movement unionism. HKCTU is not only a crucial team-player in fighting for democratic movements, but also in student movements. Of the two major strikes of the last decade, namely the bar-benders strike of 2007 and dockers strike of 2013, student organizations also worked closely with the HKCTU to support workers’ struggles. Read more


China Labour Quarterly Issue 13


Dec 2016

Hong Kong-listed companies cheat Chinese workers  out of their hard-earned money

while the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the Exchange) turns a blind eye

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has set up a “Monitoring Database of Hong Kong Enterprises in China” three years ago, to acquire information through media, social media, and interviews with labour organizations and workers in China. This year, the “Monitoring Report on Collective Labour Disputes of Hong Kong Enterprises in China” (Monitoring Report) covers from May 2015 to June 2016.  It documents large-scale labour disputes in Hong Kong enterprises and their labour violations, and aims to monitor multinational brands and Hong Kong entrepreneurs. It also advocates the Hong Kong Government to better monitor Hong Kong-listed enterprises’ conducts in other countries / territories. Last year, the Monitoring Report (2015) disclosed that many Hong Kong enterprises failed to pay for workers’ social security contributions and consequently led to a wave of strikes. This year, the Monitoring Report tells us about how these Hong Kong enterprises use relocation, equity transfer, restructuring, and prolonged wages arrears to force workers into “voluntary resignation”, in order to avoid paying severance compensation as required by law. Almost 60% (59.3%) of the cases of collective labour disputes are related to missing severance compensation and some of them involve listed companies in Hong Kong. Likewise, wages arrears take place in 56.3% of all collective labour disputes cases. Read more


Unusual Features of China’s Walmart Workers’ Resistance

China has experienced an increasing number of strikes in the last few years. Among them, the Walmart workers’ protest that is now in its third month marks a new stage in post-Mao labour history. The protest exhibits a number of special features. First, while all of the strikes so far have taken place at single workplaces, coordinated strikes erupted at the same time this year at four Walmart stores in different cities. Second, these strikes, as well as protests at many other Walmart stores, were initiated and organized by workers themselves without prior contact with any labour NGOs. Third, the protests have been coordinated through the internet, using an on-line platform set up by two Chinese Walmart workers in 2014, The founders gave it a low-key benign name “Walmart China Workers’ Association” (WCWA). The two men serve as coordinators of blogs and chat rooms, with the intention of providing a platform for workers to exchange information, particularly on legal knowledge. The internet discussions have given workers a sense of collective identity as Walmart workers. Though the network does not have any formal organizational structure, it is has become a powerful organizing tool. Read more



Wukan Village, a cry for democracy from the grassroots in China

Wukan, a small village in Lufeng, Guangdong, became the focus of China politics again. Five years ago, large scale farmers’ protest broke out due to land dispute in Wukan village. More than 4,000 people went on the street, eventually forcing the Chinese communist regime to give in and allowed villagers to elect their village chief with equal and anonymous vote. Lin Zuluan, leader of the farmers’ protest and twice elected as the chairman of villagers’ committee, was taken away by police for “accepting bribery” in June this year. In September, Lin was sentenced to prison for 3 years and 1 month. The verdict has led to another large scale protest by the villagers. Read more



China listed in ten worst countries  for working people

In its 2015-2016 ITUC Global Rights Index (the Index), published on June 9th this year, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) listed China as one of the ten worst countries for working people. Read more



Johnson Electric neglecting occupational health
Leukemia victim came to HK calling for compensation

Johnson Electric (HKG 0179) is one of the world’s largest manufacturers in motion subsystems and components for automotive and industrial applications, supplying to a number of well-known brands such as Audi, Porsche, BMW, etc. While claiming, as shown on its website, that ‘No harm to people working for us wherever we operate’ is one of their specific Environmental, Health and Safety goals, its words and performance surely lack consistency. A number of employees and former employees of Huaseng Motor (Guangdong) Limited in Shenzhen, a subsidiary manufacturer of Johnson Electric, have contracted leukemia due to prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals (benzene) and lack of adequate protection equipment provided in workplace. Huaseng has also refused to compensate for statutory medical expenses and pay for original wages and welfare benefits as required by law. Read more


China Labour Quarterly Issue 12


Apr 2016

5.1 Global Action Week

Say NO to Labour Suppression

Labour organisations in Guangdong Province encountered a large-scale crackdown between the 3rd and 5th December 2015. At least 25 employees and volunteers from four labour organiszations were detained and questioned by the police and seven of them were put into prolonged custody or forced to “disappear”. After a series of global and Mainland local advocacy, four activists were released. Yet, Zeng Feiyang, director of Panyu Migrant Workers Centre, his colleague Meng Han and He Xiaobo, director of Foshan Nanfeiyan Social Work Centre, continue to be detained. The three detainees are all labour activists in Guangdong Province, who have been vocal in the labour movement in China. Thus, HKCTU and labour organisations launched a global action week, to urge global labour organisations to send postcards to the Chinese embassies, demanding the immediate release of the activists and a halt to the crackdown on civil society. Details of the action can be found at the link here: Read more


He is ill and I am in tears

Editor: This article was written by Yang Min, wife of He Xiaobo, to talk about He Xiaobo’s health problem. Yang was under house arrest from 22nd February to 16th March 2016, with state security officers stationed at her home to monitor her. Yang has not received any official document about lifting the house arrest until now.
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Civil societies in China and Hong Kong unite to resist subjugation

Civil society organizations in China and Hong Kong have been undergoing ever-growing suppression since Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, and Leung Chun-ying, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, took office. In Hong Kong, ongoing social struggles have continued to take place since the Umbrella Movement. Yet the Hong Kong Government refuses to acknowledge the opposition and keeps pushing for policies and measures which are violating the people’s will. In China, since March 2015, women’s rights activists, human rights lawyers and recently labour activists have been detained. This appears to be the largest wave of suppression in Chinese civil society since the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. In an unusual move to raise their concerns regarding the legislation of the Foreign NGO Management Law, the governments of the U.S., Canada, Germany, and Japan submitted a joint appeal to Chinese Government in early January 2016, while the European Union followed suit one day later. This Law aims to strengthen the government’s control over the foreign NGOs in China.  Read more


Both the United Nations and International  Trade Union Confederation are concerned:

the ITUC files a complaint against the Chinese Government’s detention of labour activists

Since late 2015, Chinese labour activists have been arbitrarily detained and prosecuted and created enormous concern from the international community. More than 200 trade unions and labour organisations around the world have signed a joint petition and numerous national unions have participated in the global action day, to call for the release of the detained activists. The United Nations (UN) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have released statements respectively, condemning the Chinese Government for its abuse of fundamental human rights. The ITUC recently complained at the International Labour Organization (ILO), about the Chinese Government’s violation of ILO Convention No. 87. This was the first formal complaint that it has made since 2002. Read more



China Labour Quarterly Issue 11


Mar 2016


Workplace as battlefield
Chemical poisoning & carcinogens are killing workers quietly

It is often reported that workers suffer from occupational diseases as they have worked in vile working conditions without adequate protective measures. According to the ILO, 6,400 people are killed in industrial accidents or by occupational diseases each day, in other words, each year, occupational hazards cost the lives of 2.3 million workers globally. Such a death toll is compatible to a full-scale war.1 Among the occupational hazards, occupational leukaemia, caused by exposure to toxic chemicals is the second leading killer in China. For example, Zou Xiuhua suffers from leukemia after working less than two years in Johnson Electric’s (HKG 0179) plant in Shenzhen City. Chen, another worker at Qilitian Golf Articles (Shenzhen) Co. shares the same fate, as he has worked with toxic chemicals over a long time. Read more


Expert's views

The marginalization of sick workers in China— an interview with Dr. Ho Wing Chong

The sick workers in China are the most vulnerable group whose life is located outside the “normal” political, economic and cultural practices, and hence is rendered largely silent and unintelligible in the public realm, argued by Dr. Ho Wing Chong1, who has been constantly studying the experiences of Chinese sick workers, in his journal paper which was published in 20142. He pointed out that the sick workers has already uncompetitive in job market and consequently they lost the role as breadwinner for the family. It is as if sick workers are unable to uphold any roles in the society. Read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

Two Important Issues on How to Let Chinese Workers Have Equal Share in Achieving Moderate Prosperity Society

"Moderate prosperity society" is continuously an economic and social development goal of the Chinese government for the next five-yearplan. Premier Li Keqiang made it clear that to attain this goal it is necessary to ensure economic growth, and to " let the people live a better life. Whether the people have a better quality and standard of life is a key indicator of a moderately prosperous society. " In the past years, China has maintained a high growth of gross domestic product (GDP). Only a small number of the population are better off, but most of them do not share the fruit of economic success. Consequently, the disparity between the rich and the poor have been becoming more serious (Gini coefficient rose from 0.29 in 1980 to 0.52 in 2013). At the end of the day, whether the moderate prosperity society benefit a few people or most people? From the perspective of workers, there are two important issues to consider in order to advance the quality of life of worker and to ensure decent work in the thirteenth five-year plan of China. Read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

Global Solidarity from Trade Unions and Labour Organizations Free Detained Chinese Labour Activists Now!

Since 3 December, the authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have carried out a coordinated and wide-ranging crackdown on labour rights activists and labour organizations in the province. More than 25 people from at least four labour organizations have been taken away and questioned by the police. At least seven of them have been criminally detained or currently uncertain whereabouts. Those five who are being put under criminal detention on charges include: Zeng Feiyang, the director of Panyu Workers’ Centre and labour organizer Zhu Xiaomei; labour activist He Xiaobo, who runs a group in Foshan called Nanfeiyan that helps injured workers; Activist Peng Jiayong, the founder of a workers’ self-help group, and another labour activist Deng Xiaoming. The authorities have prevented lawyers from meeting any of the detained. Labour activist Meng Han is being detained at Guangzhou City No. 1 Detention Centre.  The police has continued to harass and intimidate the family members and friends of the detained activists and prevented them from giving media interviews. Read more


HKCTU Action Updates

Turning a blind eye to Hong Kong employers’ violation of social security obligation Deprivation of Regulation on Collective Contracts

On 28 October 2015, the HKCTU and other labour organizations launched a protest at United Centre in Admiralty, to condemn the four major business associations in Hong Kong, which had been connived its members at owing Chinese migrant workers’ pension insurance premiums and forcing the Guangdong Provincial Government to revise its Regulations on Collective Contracts (2015). Read more

China Labour Quarterly Issue 10


Sep 2015


UNIQLO’s neglect of its supplier’s labour exploitation

Difficulties and reflections on the Artigas workers’ collection actions


In recent years, Lever Style Inc., the Hong Kong-based parent company of Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Factory and its Japanese buyer UNIQLO have been enjoying a rapid rise in their turnover. Their workers, who have been treated as disposable and have been left with nothing, have not benefit from this prosperity however. During the process of factory relocation and merger, senior workers at Artigas, who had worked for decades at the factory and made garments for UNIQLO and other brands, were told that they would not be entitled to pension and severance compensation. Artigas workers have been the most resilient workers in defending their rights. Read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

70% rise of industrial actions in Hong Kong invested enterprises in China

Missing social security insurance and severance compensation as major causes

“Missing social security funds initiating a new wave of labour movement: Violent suppression intensified” is the theme of the “Investigative Report on Labour Rights in Hong Kong Enterprises in China 2014-2015”. On 11 August 2015, the HKCTU released this report, exposing the common labour violations of Hong Kong suppliers in China, which produce for internationally known brands, such as Marks & Spencer, Disney, UNIQLO and etc. Read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

Automobile workers’ collective actions and development of grassroots unions:
a case study of ST Auto Parts Factory

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. Read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

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

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.” Read more


HKCTU Action Updates

Unions from Asian countries show 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. Read more


HKCTU Action Updates

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. Read more

China Labour Quarterly Issue 9


Jun 2015

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

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.  Read more


News of the Labour Movement in China


Feminist activists detained ahead of International Women’s Day

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. Read more


News of the Labour Movement in China


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

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. Read more

China Labour Quarterly Issue 8


Apr 2015

The crackdown on the labor movement escalates 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. 
read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

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. read more


HKCTU action updates

The impact of the Umbrella Movement on the labour movement in China and Hong Kong

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. read more

China Labour Quarterly Issue 7


Oct 2014

Who stole Shenzhen workers’ pension? 

A pension insurance system riddled with problems. 

In April 2014, 48,000 workers launched a strike at Yue Yuen Shoe Factory, located in Dongguan City, over underpayment of the social security premium, it was the largest strike in China in recent years. Recent research on pension insurance shows that nearly 80% of the enterprises in Shenzhen are violating the law as a "common practise". While the bosses try to ignore these workers, they began to swtich to collective action to fight for their rights.  read more


Expert's views

Who is responsible for the enormous underpayment of pension insurance premiums? 

Chu Kong-wai

Labour Education and Service Network

In April 2014, tens of thousands of workers in Yue Yuen Shoe Factory launched a strike, which was closely followed by both domestic media and the international community. The conflict broke out due to Yue Yuen's underpayment of the social insurance premium, as workers realized that after enduring a dozen years of hardship in the workplace, they would only be entitled to a pension of a few hundred Yuan, anger was provoked among the workers.   read more


Sectoral Report

Kunshan blast exposes OSH concerns

A tragedy triggered by dust

On 2 August 2014, an explosion took place at Zhongrong Metal Production Company (hereafter Zhongrong Co.) in Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province. 75 workers were killed and 185 were injured. The blastwas triggered by a spark that had ignited a dust-filled room, it shows that local government has failed to keep work safety intact.   read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

Betrayed by a state-owned enterprise

Ex-employees protested at China Construction Bank's general meeting of shareholders in Hong Kong

On 29 June 2014, at its shareholders' general meeting in Hong Kong, China Construction Bank's chairman, Wang Hongzhang, was being asked “why did the bank unlawfully retrench and buy-out its workers?” Nobody answered this question at the meeting. When Wang stepped out of the meeting room, he was surrounded by a group of former employees who demanded him to explain what right he had to deprive former employees, who were also shareholders, the right to attend the main meeting.   read more


News of the Labour Movement in China

After more than one year of wrongful detention, worker Wu Guijun won his appeal and received compensation

Retaliated against for trying to defend labour rights 

In early May 2013, Shenzhen Diweixin Product Factory relocated its plant without paying financial compensation to workers, as required by law. Subsequently, a strike lasting for more than two months broke out and one of the workers' representatives, Wu Guijun, was detained at a protest. After months of detention, he was then charged with “gathering crowds to disrupt traffic order”. Without any conviction, he was detained for over one year.

read more


HKCTU action updates

Grosby Footwear
Protest against Six Major Chambers of Commerce

Some 30 members of HKCTU and several labour organizations protested on the morning of 18 July 2014 at the Asia-Pacific merchandising department of Marks & Spencer (hereafter M&S), a major British multinational retailer. The protest was triggered by a suicide that was believed to be caused by the unjust dismissal of Zhou Jianrong, 50, on 17 July 2014. He jumped from a height after being dismissed by Grosby Footwear (Shenzhen) Ltd., a major supplier of M&S, for her participation in a strike.   read more


Six major chambers of commerce in Hong Kong released a statement in a newspaper in May 2014, to jointly obstruct Guangdong Province’s ongoing lawmaking effort regarding “collective negotiation” and the recognition of workers' rights to collective bargaining. On 6 June 2014, HKCTU and other labour groups which are concerned about workers' rights in China, protested at the Annual General Meeting of one of the six signatories. HKCTU criticized the Hong Kong business groups for being entirely self-centered and failing to engage in collective negotiation to resolve labour conflicts.   read more