Striking is not a crime! Free Wu Guijun and other imprisoned labour activists NOW!
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) marched to the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR to protest against the Chinese government’s repression on workers' rights, as well as the illegal detention of Wu Guijun, a strike representative of a Hong Kong-owned factory, for over 130 days. More than 40 union representatives and Hong Kong citizens participated in the procession, while many of them wore masks of Wu behind bars, meaning there are at least another 12 unionists who were subjected to arbitrary detention in the PRC. The HKCTU called on Chinese government to release all labour activists in prison.
President of the HKCTU, Mr. Cheng Ching-fat, pronounced that, "The October 1st National Day is a National Day of Anger" because Chinese workers are still unable to freely enjoy the three basic labour rights (freedom of association, the right to strike and the right to collective bargaining). As in the past year, a wave of factory closure, malicious back pay of wages due to plant relocation and intentional depression on layoff compensation frequently occurred in the Pearl Delta Region. However, local governments were unable to carry out their duties to regulate and to enforce the labour law. Instead, the local governments tend to deal with the workers' self-organized strike actions with an iron-hand. More than often, riot police were dispatched to repress worker protests, worker organizers were detained and forcing workers to accept severance payments which were lower than the statutory standards.
Wu Guijun was one of the activists being repressed and detained. Wu was an employee in Diweixin Product Factory, a Hong Kong-owned furniture factory in Shenzhen. According to local press reports last week, Diweixin’s plant in Shenzhen was gradually closing down for the relocation of production from Shenzhen to Huizhou as a means to reduce cost. During the turn of the year, workers began to engage in severance negotiation with the employer and elected Wu as their representative. The workers went on strike on May 7th, and petitioned to the City Government for intervention. On May 23, 300 workers were besieged by the police while marching to the City Government and more than 20 workers were arrested and detained for 13 to 37 days, including Wu Guijun. Wu has been put behind bars for more than 130 days ever since. According to sources from Weibo (mini blog), the Shenzhen police have already handed Wu over to the Prosecution Department on September 28th and charged him with criminal offense – assembling a crowd to disturb social order.
The HKCTU and a congregation of demonstrators protested outside the Liaison Office to condemn the arrest of Labour Movement activists and the crackdown on the workers’ right to strike. The HKCTU believes that the strikers and Wu Guijun’s actions, which inflicted no destruction on public and private property, were barely exercising their basic worker’s rights and the criminal charges against Wu are completely unfounded. Hence, the HKCTU demands the immediate and unconditional release of Wu Guijun and stop the abuse of police authority to repress the labour movement.
The HKCTU urges the Chinese Government to amend the Trade Union Act to allow workers to form or join unions of their choice. In face of plantsliquidation, unpaid wages, and other labor disputes, many workers resort to go on strike because most of the factory-based trade unions are controlled by the management and therefore, cannot effectively represent the interests of the workers. However, these spontaneous actions taken by the workers are often not enduring. In order to successfully safeguard workers interests and enhance their collective bargaining capability, it is imperative to establish autonomousdemocratic trade unions and put an end to the ACFTU’s monopoly in organizing workers.
In addition, the HKCTU also announced the list of 12 unionists who are under imprisonment (see ANNEX). According to the International Trade Union Confederation Liaison Office in Hong Kong (IHLO), the above unionists were put under detention because of their participation in protests or strikes. The HKCTU believes these known cases are just the tip of the iceberg and the HKCTU has already submitted the relevant information to the UN Human Rights Council. Moreover, the HKCTU expresses deep regrets on the Chinese Government’s failure to give an account for the situation of freedom of association, theright to strike and the right to collective bargaining in her report to the Second Universal Periodic Review on the PRC human rights situation.
The HKCTU calls on the Hong Kong civil society and the international community to continue to follow with interest in Chinese Labour Rights, and urges the Chinese Government to:
1. Free Wu Guijun and all Labour Movement Activists who are under detention, and stop the suppression on all rights claiming workers;
2. Ratify the ILO Convention No. 87 & 98, i.e. the implementation of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining;
3. Severely punish corporates that violate labour rights and vigorous law enforcement to protect labour rights.