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: en.hkctu.org.hk

Forced TV confessions instead of a trial Zeng Feiyang’s condition remains unknown

Zeng Feiyang was detained on 3rd December 2015, on the charge of “assembling crowds to disrupt social order”. Since then, his rights to see his lawyer have been illegally denied and his condition remains unknown. The Chinese authorities have sentenced him without a trial. The official media Xinhua news agency published an article on the evening of 22nd December called “Exposing the hidden truth of “the star of labour movement”: investigation of the severe crimes committed by Zeng Feiyang, director of Panyu Migrant Workers Centre and others”. Zeng was involved in organising Lide Shoe Factory workers, who demanded the repayment of their missing social insurance and severance pay. Yet the state media accused him of, “making use of free rights defending services to accept overseas funding, severely disrupting social order and violating labour rights”. The media also adopted stigmatization to discredit Zeng, indicating that Zeng had used rights defending as a mean to gain sexual privileges and taken part in online nude chats and prostitution. The state media, China Central Television (CCTV) even came up with a 24-minute documentary to support the official story.

~ Zeng Feiyang Profile ~

Zeng graduated from the Department of Political Science and Law at South China Normal University in 1996 and joined a famous law firm, Guangdong Geenen Law Office. He was considered a young man with a bright future. During his time at the law firm, he often represented the employers in negotiation with workers, who were mainly victims of industrial accidents demanding compensation. Zeng felt very guilty about his work, knowing that these low-income migrant workers had lost their only capital, i.e. a healthy body and would not be fairly treated. He often thought about how they might survive the upcoming difficulties.

He used to say, “Workers should not be put in such a helpless position, but our society deliberately ignores their needs for legal assistance”. He felt that some people should stand out to help workers and this belief later led him to join the labour movement. While providing legal services, he kept the charges humble for injured workers and workers whose wages were missing. In 2000, he established a non-profit labour organization in Guangzhou City, Panyu Migrant Workers Centre. The centre has helped several thousands of migrant workers through legal assistance and representation. Zeng was once awarded with the “Charity Award” of the Responsible China 2012 Charity Ceremony, organized by Southern Metropolis Daily because of his enduring labour work.


He Xiaobo: diagnosed with benign liver tumours at detention centre and gave up his rights to hire lawyer in order to protect his wife

He Xiaobo: diagnosed with benign liver tumours at detention centre and gave up his rights to hire lawyer in order to protect his wife
According to a released detainee who met He Xiaobo in the detention centre, the police had threatened He that they would detain his wife Yang Min as well. Thus, He was forced to sign an agreement, promising not to hire a lawyer, in trade for Yang Min’s freedom. He’s first lawyer quit after being put under enormous pressure and his new lawyer, after many attempts, finally met him after three months of his detention.

He was diagnosed with benign liver tumours during a medical check-up at the detention centre. However, it is unclear if treatment takes place. He denied the charges of “embezzlement” and insisted that he did not violate any criminal laws. In the meantime, his wife Yang Min and young daughter are under house arrest and cannot pick up calls, after she sued Xinhua for defaming her husband in the above-mentioned article and called for support on social media. The family is being placed in a difficult situation.

~ He Xiaobo Profile ~

In 2006, He Xiaobo lost three fingers from his left hand as the result of an industrial injury in Foshan City. During the process to claim his rights, he developed the idea of establishing a non-profit organization to promote labour rights. In 2007, he realized his wish and established the first labour NGO in Foshan City, Nanfeiyan. Nanfeiyan was formally registered at the municipal-level Bureau of Civil Affairs in 2012. Over the years, more than 30,000 workers injured at work have been assisted and trained with labour-related laws and regulations. Almost 10,000 victims succeeded in claiming their compensation as entitled by law. Both Nanfeiyan and He Xiaobo himself have been repeatedly awarded and honoured by local governments for their charitable services.

A cleaner who once received help from He Xiaobo described, “workers have no place to speak, it is just like we don’t need food. Someone helped us in safeguarding our rights and we have just started to learn a bit about law and he is taken away… what kind of society is it? Why must they detain the guy who brings justice? We need He Xiaobo. We need someone who believes in law, fairness and justice. We believe that Xiaobo is innocent.”

P.S. : He Xiaobo was released on bail on 7 April, 2016.

Meng Han: continuous interrogations and requested to accuse Zeng Feiyang

According to Meng Han, he was abducted by some 20 plain-clothes police officers from his home on 3rd December 2015. When he asked to see the police’s search warrant, the police took out a piece of blank paper and wrote something on it. Meng refused to sign on such a “warrant”. Since his detention, he was interrogated successively for 16 days in a row. He was only allowed to sleep two to three hours per day. The questions mainly covered two topics: the operation of Panyu Migrant Workers Centre and the strike at Lide Shoe Factory. The police assumed that Meng had led, promoted and fuelled the labour dispute and demanded that Meng accuse Zeng Feiyang in order to be given a lenient sentence. Meng refused such bait and denied the accusations.

Meng Han (black shirt in the middle and holding a water bottle) and three workers’ representatives from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine were released after nine months of detention.

~ Meng Han Profile~

Meng was a ship captain in a state-owned enterprise for 17 years. After losing that job, he became a security guard at the First Affiliate Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in 2010, through a labour dispatch agency. He organized actions with his colleagues, to demand for equal pay for equal work and rights to join the trade union. In 2013, the hospital suddenly dismissed more than 100 workers, including medical helpers it had directly employed and contracted security guards. Meng was the first workers’ representative at the negotiation. Although he succeeded in getting the hospital to compensate its medical helpers a total of four million Yuan, and compensation for some security guards, he was charged with “assembling crowds to disrupt social order” and sentenced to nine months.

He was released in April 2014 and felt determined that he would dedicate his future to defending labour rights. He joined Panyu Migrant Workers Centre and assisted workers to fight for their rights. “My worker’s awareness might have been awoken at that time. My colleagues and even hospital workers recognized my ability in various aspects, which made me believe, I could do more for workers.”