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China Labour Bulletin, through a nationwide network of law firms, non-governmental organizations, activists and individual lawyers, seeks to help workers with a legitimate grievance but who cannot afford a lawyer navigate the Chinese legal system to arrive at a just settlement.

China has a comprehensive legal framework that, on paper at least, protects workers from exploitation by their employer. Unfortunately, the local governments which are supposed to enforce labour laws and regulations rarely do so, and it is often up to the workers themselves to take action when their rights are violated. Although workers are increasingly willing and able to stand up for their legal rights, the process is rarely straightforward and employers, government officials and even the law itself can throw up seemingly insurmountable obstacles, particularly for those with few resources at their disposal.

Since 2004, CLB and its partners have provided thousands of workers with expert representation and guidance throughout the legal process. During this time, our focus has been on highlighting social injustice, discrimination in the workplace, failure to pay due wages and benefits, and the non-payment of compensation for victims of occupational injury and illness. In addition to providing legal support, we also publicize these cases in the domestic media and on social media in China so as to raise public awareness of the issues and promote legal and social change.

It is not unusual for workers who stand up for their rights to suffer from employer intimidation and or detention by the authorities. Occasionally, worker activists do face criminal charges as a result of their actions and in such cases CLB will provide them with a robust legal defense. In most of these cases, even if convicted, workers will usually be sentenced to little more than time served.

By contrast, in the 1990s and early 2000s, worker activists could be sentenced to long prison terms for their involvement in strikes and protests. Although nearly all of these pioneer worker activists have now been released, CLB still maintains a list of formerly imprisoned workers as a testament to their struggle and sacrifice.

See the case archive below for details of some of the cases CLB has supported over the last decade and continues to support today:

CLB case archive