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Time Magazine honours the Chinese Worker

In a surprising but welcome move, Time Magazine has included “the Chinese worker” in its final list of nominees for Person of the Year 2009. Hopefully, the nomination will spur the international community to look more closely, not only at the contribution China’s workers have made but also at the problems they face on a day to day basis.

The deadly 43 minutes: Southern Weekend reveals causes of the Hegang disaster

For the family members of the recent Hegang coal mining accident that took the lives of 108 people in a gas explosion, one of the most tragic facts that will most likely haunt them forever is why so many workers ended up dying when dangerous levels of gas were identified nearly 43 minutes before the first explosion took place? Did the miners die in vain? What factors contributed to such a senseless tragedy that should have and could have been avoided? The influential newspaper Southern Weekend (南方周末), in an investigative research piece, has determined that the vast majority of workers at the Xinxing mine did not receive any warning about the exceedingly dangerous levels of gas despite that fact that the ground level headquarters received reports, and the mine management did not install a sufficient amount of emergency-use telephones that could have informed workers about the dangerous levels of gas.

A new tool in the fight to end forced labour: Free2Work

Recently I came across an interesting website that may have great potential in fighting child slavery, forced labour, and other appalling labour conditions: Free2Work. The International Labor Rights Forum, the Not For Sale Campaign, and Humanity United have teamed up to create this new platform that provides “a singular location that streamlines and simplifies the process for consumers on the topic of most concern to its audience, modern-day slavery”.

Tragedy sparks debate on the fate of migrant children in China

The explosion at an illegal firecracker factory in Guangxi two weeks ago that left two primary school children dead and 11 others badly injured has provoked not only anger and sympathy for the victims but a wide-ranging discussion in the Chinese blogosphere about the problems of left-behind children and the inequities of the household registration system.

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.

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