China Labour Quarterly Issue 14
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.