A letter to the People’s Daily on China Labour Bulletin’s work with labour activists in China

Workers at the Liansheng Moulding Factory, assisted by the Panyu Workers Centre, successfully won about five million yuan in compensation

Four labour activists have been formally arrested by the authorities in Guangdong. Zeng Feiyang, Zhu Xiaomei and Meng Han of the Panyu Workers Service Centre were charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” while He Xiaobo of the Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Centre was charged with the “misappropriation of funds.”

Two other labour activists, Peng Jiayong and Deng Xiaoming, who also were detained in early December, were released and escorted back to their home towns on 8 January.

Two weeks before the four activists were even charged, the official Chinese media launched a coordinated smear campaign, accusing them of inciting workers to strike and of accepting funding from foreign organizations.

China Central Television, the Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily all filed reports that focused in particular on Zeng Feiyang, the director of the Panyu Centre. CCTV 13's Law Online program on 23 December broadcast a feature entitled: Investigating the criminal case of “Star of the Labour Movement” Zeng Feiyang (translated here into English). 

The People’s Daily in its report (“工运之星”曾飞洋被抓:打着公益幌子敛财谋色) specifically mentioned Zeng’s links with China Labour Bulletin. At the time of his arrest, Zeng had been cooperating with CLB for about five years in a wide range of programs, all designed to protect the legitimate interests of workers and promote better labour relations in China. CLB has hitherto not publicly discussed our relationship with Zeng and our other mainland partners; however, since the People’s Daily has now made it public, CLB has decided to issue a public statement in response.

In a letter to the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Li Baoshan, issued on 8 January, CLB Director Han Dongfang explained the rationale for our work with labour activists in mainland China and highlighted the beneficial results that have already been attained. The key points of the letter are:

  • Every aspect of CLB’s five-year co-operation with Zeng Feiyang and the Panyu Centre was known from its very outset by the security authorities in Guangzhou.
  • The Panyu Centre has already become a pioneer in collective bargaining in China, helping workers elect representatives and devising peaceful legal strategies to bring obstinate employers to the bargaining table.
  • In last five years, the Panyu Centre has helped workers obtain nearly 200 million yuan in wages, lay-off compensation, social insurance contributions and other benefits.
  • CLB and the labour groups that we work with in mainland China have essentially done the job of China’s official trade union, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, and have, moreover, developed a workable model for trade union reform in China.

The letter discusses in detail the six specific cases handled by the Panyu Workers Centre that were mentioned in the People’s Daily’s original report. These cases clearly show how the Panyu Centre was instrumental in bringing about a peaceful settlement to tough and potentially violent labour disputes and ensuring that the workers involved received the wages and benefits they were legally entitled to.

More information about these particular cases is available on the CLB website. In particular, see;

The Lide shoe factory workers’ campaign for relocation compensation

Unity is strength: The story of the Guangzhou University Town sanitation workers’ strike

Playing hardball: Workers solidarity forces boss to make concessions

The full text of Han Dongfang’s letter对《人民日报》关于“番禺打工族服务部”主任曾飞洋先生报道的回应 can be viewed here as a PDF.  It is translated into English here by David Bandurski.

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