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Founded in 1994 by labour activist Han Dongfang, China Labour Bulletin seeks to uphold and defend the rights of workers across China. We support the development of democratic trade unions, respect for and enforcement of the country’s labour laws, and the full participation of workers in the creation of civil society. We also seek the official recognition in China of international standards and conventions providing for workers’ freedom of association and the right to free collective bargaining.
We are based in Hong Kong and have close links with trade unions and other NGOs around the world, as well as with numerous partner groups in mainland China. Over the last 13 years, CLB has grown from a small monitoring and research group into a proactive outreach organisation with a wide range of domestic and international programmes and initiatives.
One of our main areas of focus is on the peaceful resolution of labour disputes, strikes and protests, all of which have increased rapidly in China in recent years. To this end, in 2002 CLB established the Case Intervention Programme, in which we identify cases of labour rights abuse, provide legal advice and support to the Chinese workers concerned, and help them and their families seek justice through court litigation. To date, CLB has had success in both civil and administrative lawsuits of this kind, as well as in providing lawyers to defend worker activists subjected to criminal prosecution. In the process, we have established cooperative links with law firms across China.
However, litigation is a means of last resort, and where possible CLB tries to achieve a directly negotiated or arbitrated settlement between workers and management. Two years ago, we set up the CC2005 Programme to promote the use of factory-wide, collective labour contracts as an alternative to management-imposed corporate codes of conduct. Since collective contracts have to be negotiated by the workers’ own representatives and are legally enforceable, this programme puts the workforce firmly in the driver’s seat.
Over the past three years, CLB’s experienced research team has produced nine in-depth reports on the labour rights situation in China, ranging from the country’s appalling coal mine safety record, the silicosis epidemic among Guangdong’s gemstone workers, and the abusive labour conditions endured by female migrant workers from the countryside. All the reports are available in Chinese, and three titles have been published in English so far, with a fourth soon to follow.