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Hegang tragedy highlights numerous problems that still need to be addressed in China’s coal mines

The Hegang tragedy has intensified some sharp debate about how to prevent mining accidents, and has highlighted some of the common practices used by officialdom to suppress worker participation in the name of “stability”.

What’s behind ACFTU’s call for stronger SOE unions?

On 11 November 2009 the ACFTU (All-China Federation of Trade Unions) released a notice that called for the strengthening of union work during State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) restructuring, more independence from Party and government departments, and an end to the merging of ACTFU departments with Party departments. The notice lays out the problem quite clearly:

Will the Military Cut Jobs Program?

A recent Apple Daily editorial by Li Ping discussed the rumors that the military might cut its program that provides demobilizing soldiers with civilian jobs, and instead, would issue the soldiers a lump-sum payment. Li reports that rumors have resurfaced indicating that the government might implement a “lump sum payment system” (应金制), rather the continuing the “transfer to civilian job” (转业) system. This would essentially mean that soldiers would receive a one-time compensation payment in cash, and officials would no longer remain responsible for their civilian work arraignments. Li also points out that the system is not unlike the “one-time redundancy payments” (买断工龄) common in the State-Owned Enterprise restructuring(企业改革)era.

Twenty year jail sentence for Chongqing crime boss accused of instigating strike in his own taxi company

Have Chongqing’s prosecutors been watching too many episodes of The Sopranos? I ask merely because the latest installment in the Chongqing crime boss trials that have gripped the nation over the last few weeks has all the hallmarks of HBO’s award-winning drama series - corrupt politicians, crooked businessmen and vicious gangsters conspiring to organize strikes and monopolize the market.

As urbanization continues, will Cantonese and dialect usage increase?

A recent South China Morning Post article points towards a limited revival in the fortunes of Cantonese in Shenzhen. As it is now, many migrant workers to Guangdong come from the broad Mandarin-speaking areas of China in the northern and south-western parts of the country. Generally speaking, they are unable to learn the local language, due to lack of classes and the large amount of time that they spend working. However, some of the children of migrant workers − the second generation of migrant workers who have often grown up in the cities – are enthusiastic to speak Cantonese in Shenzhen, partly as a way of asserting their new identity as Shenzheners.

President Bill Clinton, Reform of People’s Congresses, and Equality in China

A look at how China’s parliamentary system is set up shows that the devil is indeed in the details, and the solution to fixing the system may come through constitutional appeals for equality. According to the Election Law, representatives from rural areas currently represent four times as many people as their urban counterparts . For example, say an urban representative represents 10,000 constituents. His or her colleague from a rural area would represent 40,000 constituents. Obviously, this means people from rural areas are underrepresented in the congresses, while the urban representatives have the advantage of using systematic steroids.

Local officials in Sichuan give dying miner the runaround

On the same day that Zhang Haichao was awarded 615,000 yuan in compensation for pneumoconiosis contracted while working at an abrasive materials factory in Henan, another migrant worker suffering from the same disease was being given the runaround by hospital and government authorities in Sichuan. Xiao Huazhong, an elderly retired miner from Qu county in Sichuan, suffers from stage three pneumoconiosis and has been seeking compensation from his former employer for several years, so far all to no avail. His former employer, Liao Xing’an, is a local coal baron and one of the most powerful men in Qu county.

Substantial payout to migrant worker should not distract attention from the plight of others

The award last week of 615,000 yuan in damages to China’s best-known pneumoconiosis victim, Zhang Haichao, is very welcome news but it should not suggest that work-related illness sufferers in China are getting a better deal – far from it.

Cai Chongguo: In solving the inter-ethnic conflict in Xinjiang, civil society-based communication is the key

In this blog post, I have translated CLB’s Paris-based commentator Cai Chongguo’s opinion piece about what is needed to improve ethic relations in Xinjiang: civil-society based dialogue and genuine cultural exchange. As an urban Chinese youth in the Cultural Revolution who was “sent down” to the countryside to learn from “peasants”, and as a person who learned how to live in another culture while in France, Cai brings unique insight into what needs to happen in order to improve ethnic relations.

SASAC urges enterprises to “channel” public opinion

State-owned enterprises (SOE’s) and the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) have been getting a lot of bad press recently. Rather than solve the underlying problems causing the bad news, the China Media Project (CMP), a project affiliated with Hong Kong University that specializes in following trends in the Chinese media, has recently reported how SASAC has “encouraged state-owned enterprises to set up press offices to combat “negative news”” and essentially sweep the problems under the rug. As CLB has previously reported, SASAC’s is one of the primary players in the deciding how to restructure SOE’s, and its role is often controversial and troubled, as in the Tonghua incident. Although this new attempt to control information and to “channel public opinion” is somewhat distressing and may eventually prove ineffective, it may also be one of the only recourses available to troubled enterprises, barring a systematic solution to SOE management that includes worker empowerment.

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