Updates on the Detention of Chinese Labor Activists

I recently re-posted a piece by Paul Garver on the detention of labor activists in China. Paul edits the Talking Union blog of the Democratic Socialists of America, and I included the re-post of his piece in a somewhat broader article on labor activism in China: https://academeblog.org/2015/12/10/supporting-the-emerging-chinese-labor-movement-on-international-human-rights-day/.

That post was then re-posted on the Facebook page of the Red Balloon Solidarity Group: https://www.facebook.com/redballoonsolidarity.

Although that page is largely in Chinese, another site called libcom.org has provided an English-language summary of the updates on the Red Ballon site from December 9 through December 16: http://libcom.org/news/updates-guangdong-seven-december-16.

If you wish to show support for the labor activists who have been detained by the Chinese government, you can sign a petition for college and university faculty available at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/scholars-opposing-the-abuse-of-state-power.

The petition has already been signed by faculty from a very broad range of colleges and universities worldwide.

Here is the text accompanying that petition.

Opposing the Abuse of State Power
Scholars’ Global Petition against the Arrest of Labor Activists in China

On December 3, authorities detained 20 labor activists in Guangdong Province. Four have been placed under criminal charge, several are unaccounted for, and the rest have been questioned and released. All of these activists are associated with four grass-roots labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta. This campaign of unprovoked suppression has once again put into profound question the abuse of government authority in China. A “sweep” such as this is intended to terrorize and intimidate, not enforce a system of judicious rules; it is the use of government power to bully.

We, the undersigned scholars–including experts on China, labor relations, and related fields–join with many others to decry this abuse of power. We stand in support of these activists who have willingly taken on personal risk to educate and organize workers seeking their legal entitlement to, most critically, salary, social insurance, and severance compensation. To those of us who know some of these activists personally or through research, the charges of “creating public disorder” are ludicrous. On the contrary, they are committed to an orderly system of labor relations – a goal which the government claims to share.

The implications of the government’s actions go beyond the individuals and organisations affected and the invaluable work they do. As scholars and researchers, we are also concerned for the future of labor-related research in China. The climate created by this latest crackdown will serve as a barrier to research partnerships and exchanges between academic institutions in and outside China; it will impact negatively on research funding bids; and it will constrain all-important cooperation between civil society actors and academics. As a consequence, the quality of research may well decline and this will, sooner or later, generate lower standards of policy- and law-making.

The Chinese government is certainly not alone among governments in its failure to enforce the legal rights of workers; many states carry out–or tolerate–extra-legal suppression of workers and unions. However, China is singular in its position of rising dominance among nations. As such, its failure to find the discipline to govern by the rule of law is a stunning failure. It cannot be tolerated by those who live under this rule, or by those who observe it from without.

We join many others in China and around the world who call for the immediate release of these colleagues, and full reinstatement to their freedom, work, and property:

Zeng Feiyang of Guangzhou’s Panyu Da Gong Zu Service Center

He Xiaobo of Foshan’s Nan Fei Yan Social Work Service Organization

Zhu Xiaomei of Guangzhou’s Panyu Da Gong Zu Service Center

Deng Xiaoming of Guangzhou Hai Ge Workers’ Services Center

Pang Jiayong of Laborer Mutual Aid Group in Panyu

 

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