Two weeks after veteran labour activist Meng Han was sentenced to 21 months in prison, hundreds of people donated over 16,000 yuan (US$ 2,322) in a crowdfunding effort to support him and his over-70-year-old parents who were threatened by thugs and evicted out of their rented apartment in Guangdong province.
The online crowdfunding campaign was started by fellow labour rights activists immediately after a Guangzhou court handed down Meng’s verdict on 3 November. At least 217 people donated directly to Meng’s WeChat account. Many more showed their support when student activists and labour rights lawyers raised money offline for Meng, according to Xiao Yan, Meng’s longtime partner. WeChat is a popular Chinese instant messaging application with payment functionality.
Meng’s family decided to end the campaign on the 20th as donations exceeded their initial expectation of 15,000 yuan. “We will send 5,000 yuan to Meng Han for the rest of his prison term, and use the rest of the money to cover for his elderly parents’ living expenses,” said Xiao Yan.
Conditions in Chinese prisons are generally poor and inmates often have to pay extra for decent food, clothes, and beddings.
Meng’s family has not been allowed to meet him after his arrest on 3 December. “Local police told me that we still couldn’t see Meng until they make their special arrangement, and we have to wait for them to ‘wrap up some things first’,” noted Xiao Yan.
Meng Han, a 52 years old former state-owned enterprise worker from Hubei province, was charged with disrupting public order and sentenced to nine months in prison back in 2014 for organising a group of security guards and healthcare workers at the Guangzhou Chinese Medicine University Auxiliary Hospital. At the time, Meng was the elected worker representative and was trying to engage management in collective bargaining over workers’ grievances.
Earlier this month, the International Labour Organisation’s Committee on Freedom of Association requested the Chinese government to provide court judgements for Meng, as well as his three colleagues Zeng Feiyang, Zhu Xiaomei, and Tang Huanxin, all of whom worked at the Guangzhou-based Panyu Workers’ Centre. The four labour rights activists were arrested, criminally charged, and given suspended sentence for “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”.