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Liu Shaoming, a 1989 Veteran and a Labor Activist, Remains Imprisoned Without Sentence

China Change, May 31, 2017

 

Liu Shaoming 2

Liu Shaoming’s (刘少明) work as an activist, while based in Guangdong, saw him travel across the country in recent years. In Guangdong he joined the calls for releasing dissident Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), and numerous other participants in the Southern Street Movement (南方街头运动). He traveled to Xinyu in Jiangxi Province (江西新余), Jixi in Shaanxi Province (陕西鸡西), Jiansanjiang in Heilongjiang (黑龙江建三江), and many other places where citizens gathered to scrutinize the abuse of power. Over the last few years he has been summoned in for talks with the police or detained in police lockups dozens of times, but by what he called “luck” he was spared serious persecution. One human rights lawyer has described Liu as enthusiastic and selfless — like a brother. Indeed, at 59 years of age and a veteran of the June 4 democracy protests, for most of those in the field today Liu is of an older generation of activists.

In May of 1989 he was a worker at a steel factory in Jiangxi; he left behind his wife and infant child to travel to Beijing and live in one of the tents on the square, joining the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation (北京工人联合自治会), administering first-aid to the student protesters. He stayed with them until the early hours of June 4, and departed the square with them. He was later identified and jailed for a year.

According to Liu Shaoming’s defense lawyer Wu Kuiming (吴魁明), since 2014 — apart from his civil rights activism — Liu has been most heavily involved in helping workers in the Pearl River Delta (珠三角) region defend their rights. In the evening of May 29, 2015, in Guangzhou, he was taken away by unidentified men; two weeks later he was detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (寻衅滋事). His lawyer explained that the police have devoted enormous investigative resources to collecting and analyzing information about Liu’s participation in labor rights work, as supposed criminal activity. From this, the lawyer says, it’s clear that Liu’s labor rights work is the reason the authorities apprehended him.

Xiao Shu (笑蜀), a well-known writer on activist affairs who has observed the labor movement in Guangdong for many years, said that Liu Shaoming is one of the founders of the “Labor Defense Volunteers” (工维义工) collective in Guangzhou, a loose coalition of volunteers in southern China who advocate on behalf of workers’ rights. It had only been founded a few months before Liu Shaoming was arrested, but even by then the group had gotten involved in numerous labor rights incidents. Xiao Shu noted: “Over the last five months [in 2015], they’ve been involved in a strike at the Guangxin Shoe Factory in Ebu, Haifeng County, Guangdong (海丰县鹅埠广信鞋厂), and labor rights incidents at the Second Heavy Machinery Group in Sichuan (四川二重) and the Lide Shoe Factory in Guangzhou (广州利得鞋厂). The Lide strike was a total victory, and Liu Shaoming’s contribution was essential.”

On December 3, 2015, the Guangdong authorities targeted numerous labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta region. Seven activists — including Zeng Feixiang (曾飞洋), Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅), Peng Jiayong (彭家勇), He Xiaobo (何晓波), and Meng Han (孟晗), among others — were arrested on charges of “gathering crowds to disturb public order” for organizing strikes and fighting for the legitimate rights of workers. Another several dozen people were summoned and interrogated. China’s state media engaged in an all-out character assassination of them, accusing their small-scale grassroots organizations of “long-term receipt of funds from foreign organizations, profiting off labor and management disputes, severely disrupting social order, and severely trampling on the rights and benefits of workers.” Over the course of 2016, under immense international pressure and domestic cries of support, these labor activists were gradually given suspended sentences or released on probation.

But not Liu Shaoming. He has been treated like a different sort of criminal, and was indicted on January 5, 2016. Despite the fact that the police had collected a vast amount of information and evidence about his labor rights activities, when they arrested him the focus of the prosecutor’s accusations lay elsewhere entirely. Their charges said:

“An investigation performed according to the law has ascertained: From 2014 to May 2015, the defendant Liu Shaoming himself composed and compiled the documents “A Letter to the CCP’s Low-ranking Soldiers and Police in the Armed Forces” (《给中共当局基层武装力量的士兵和警员的一封信》), “A Letter to My Chinese Compatriots” (《告中国同胞书》), “My Views on the Overseas Democracy Movement” (《我对海外民运的看法》), “My Personal Views on the Reformist and Revolutionary Schools” (《我个人关于改良派和革命派看法》),  among many essays and expressions which engaged in rumor mongering and slander against the state power and socialism. These texts were distributed via WeChat, QQ, Telegram and other software on his cellular phone, and were received by numerous friends on WeChat and Telegram; he also on numerous occasions disseminated these texts to WeChat and QQ friend groups, under the circumstances that he was fully aware that there were a large number of friends in those groups, identifying himself under the term of endearment ‘Old Migrant Worker Liu Shaoming,’  all of which had the effect of inciting subversion of state power and overturning the socialist system.”

Two defense lawyers pointed out that the police arrest of Liu Shaoming was “simply because the police regard Liu is a ‘troublemaker.’ Even if they had no evidence, they would still have arrested him.”

 

Liu Shaoming

 

China Change has observed a key feature of the Chinese government’s suppression of civil society over the last several years, which goes some way to explaining the “special treatment” Liu Shaoming has been subjected to: this is that, horizontally, Liu’s activism spanned across the rights defense movement, political dissent, and labor rights spheres, and vertically, that its origin can be traced all the way back to the June 4 democracy movement and the ideas that animated it. This, in the eyes of an increasingly paranoid Chinese government, makes Liu appear somehow more “dangerous” — even though all of the activities he has engaged in, whether 28 years ago with the June 4 demonstration, or the labor activism in the Pearl River Delta today, are perfectly permissible under the Chinese constitution.

“When it comes to political cases,” remarked a human rights lawyer who wished to remain anonymous, “the key basis for the decision to arrest, investigate, and sentence a politically sensitive individual is not a question of the facts of the matter, but a question of whether they want to do it or not. It’s all about whom they want to get rid of and persecute.” Liu Shaoming now suffers the misfortune of having become one of the people the Party authorities want to remove from the scene.

Liu Shaoming was tried in the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court on April 15, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power.” The hearing ended without a sentence. It is now over 13 months since the trial, and Liu has still not been sentenced. China’s Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that under normal circumstances “A people’s court shall pronounce the judgment on a case of public prosecution within two months or, not later than three months.”

In his statement of self-defense in court, Liu Shaoming responded to the charges thus: “Because of some essays and memoirs I wrote which accurately recorded that period of national and personal history, and because I expressed some political opinions that diverge from those of the authorities, I’ve been accused of ‘rumor mongering,’ ‘slander,’ and ‘inciting subversion of state power’ and put in the defendant’s chair in a court of law. Whatever the result, I will assume it calmly. This is the most I can do to comfort the fallen spirits of those who have laid down their lives for the project of democracy in China. As to whether I’m innocent or guilty, history will be the fairest judge. Whether it’s the 20 square meter cell of jail, or the 9.6 million square kilometer thought prison of the entire country, for those who yearn for freedom there is little difference.”

Of his own activism, he said: “The pursuit of liberty and democracy is what I have dreamed of and pursued my entire life… Our resistance and suffering today is nothing but the final stage of resistance and suffering in the five thousand years of history of the Chinese people. This time we’re making a stand without any of the slaughter and bloodletting of the past: this is a rational, peaceful, non-violent pursuit, to bring the light spring wind of constitutional democracy and liberty to this great ancestral land, and to bless China.”

He said that public security personnel in pre-trial interrogations focused exclusively on his involvement in labor activism, as well as on his support for human rights lawyers. But, he said, given that the indictment contained no mention of this, “You don’t mention it, I don’t defend it.”

In 2015 and 2016 China rolled out an intense battery of new legislation: the Foreign NGO Law (《中华人民共和国境外非政府组织境内活动管理法》), the Charity Law (《中华人民共和国慈善法》),  the Cybersecurity Law (《网络安全法》), the State Security Law (《国家安全法》), and most recently a draft of the State Intelligence Law (《中华人民共和国国家情报法》草案), which will likely become a law in the near future. The international community has regarded this series of laws as primarily a formal codification of well-practiced repressive policies. They demonstrate how the Chinese authorities regard civil society as the greatest threat to the regime, and they’re aimed to maximally restrict the normal activities and growth of civil society in China.

From when he left Jiangxi as a steel factory worker, to his current imprisonment, half of Liu Shaoming’s life has been spent in the Pearl River Delta region as a migrant worker. He has worked as a porter, a construction laborer, an enterprise manager, a factory director, an advertisement salesman, and a copywriter for advertising pamphlets — he couldn’t be any more the Chinese everyman. Peng Jiayong (彭家勇), a colleague who has worked with him on labor rights, said: “He established a studio for advocating on behalf of workers and joined forces with them completely —  eating together, living together. He never accepted any money from any organization, and no one ever gave him a salary or stipend. His juniors affectionately called him ‘Uncle Liu.’”

 

 


Related:

‘In Winter-frozen Earth, Spring Starts to Quicken’: A 2016 New Year’s Message from China’s Labor Community, January 1, 2016.

Chinese Authorities Orchestrate Surprise Raid of Labor NGOs in Guangdong, Arresting Leaders, December 10, 2015.

 

 

 

 

Chinese Construction Workers in Saipan Still Fighting for Their Wages

China Change, May 25, 2015

 

 

 

The struggle continues for Chinese workers who labored on the Imperial Pacific casino project. This morning, as captured in this video, over 20 workers are protesting in the streets of Saipan chanting “pay my hard-earned wages, I want to return home.” Below is a letter issued by the protesting workers describing their long hours, low pay, and inhumane treatment. They are demanding to be paid in accordance with U.S. minimum wage and overtime laws as well as seeking compensation for injured workers.

These workers were employed by a variety of Chinese construction companies helping construct the casino, including Beilida, Gold Mantis, CMC Macao, and the state-owned enterprise MCC. As the New York Times noted, several of the companies see their work in Saipan as part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” project.

IMG_4327Earlier this month, after a series of protests, over 90 undocumented Gold Mantis workers received compensation pursuant to a U.S. Department of Labor settlement. However, Gold Mantis never compensated workers injured on the job, despite calls for them to do so by a previous OSHA official and other advocates. And some Gold Mantis employees still have not been paid.

One of the protesting workers, Gui Lin Zhang, worked for both MCC and Gold Mantis. He had to pay US $1,000 in cash to the Gold Mantis boss to get that job. Before he was paid his salary of $910 for his one month of work, another $300 “management fee” was deducted. He has not received any pay from the U.S. Department of Labor settlement. Further, after leaving Gold Mantis, he was then injured while working at MCC, pulling muscles in his back. The company refused to take him to a doctor or provide any compensation.

Describing his work in Saipan, Zhang stated, “In terms of emotional stress, working 6 months on the casino project was equivalent to working 20 years in China. The managers frequently cursed at us. They treated us like we were not humans.”

At least one of the workers for CMC Macao had worked for over a month but not received any wages at all.

Take Action

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and other allies have called on Imperial Pacific to tell its contractors to compensate workers.

The workers ask allies to tell Imperial Pacific via email (groupmarcom@imperialpacific.com) or phone (+852- 3968-9800) that all exploited casino workers must receive the pay and compensation to which they are entitled.

 

2017.5.25 - Worker Protest Letter - CN (cropped)

2017.5.25 - Worker Protest Letter - EN (cropped)

 

 

 

 

Injured Chinese Workers in Saipan Demand Compensation From Employer

May 11, 2017

 

 

 

Related:

Workers Stranded in Saipan Without Pay Wrote Letter to Chinese Consulate, May 1, 2017.

U.S. Investigates Work at Pacific Island Casino Project With Trump Ties, New York Times, May 4, 2017.

 

 

 

Workers Stranded in Saipan Without Pay Wrote Letter to Chinese Consulate

May 1, 2017

 

 

Honorable Consulate of the People’s Republic of China:

We are 92 Chinese workers currently in Saipan. We worked for Gold Mantis Decoration LLC at the construction site of Imperial Pacific’s casino. In China, we paid 30,000-50,000 RMB [US $4,350-7,250] for the opportunity to work in America. We worked 13 hours every day with hardly a day off. Many workers suffered injuries on the job. The wages promised by the company (300 RMB [US $43.51] for 9 hours, 50 RMB [US $7.25] for each additional hour of overtime) are below the U.S. minimum wage. Gold Mantis also deducted a “tax” of US $1,000-1,600 per person. But Gold Mantis has not paid even a cent of our last month of wages. Since April 2, when our work ended, we have not been paid the money that we earned.

Today the Chinese people will celebrate International Worker’s Day. But, we Chinese workers in Saipan are penniless and struggling. Gold Mantis has violated our most basic labor rights. Each Gold Mantis representative, big and small, has fled Saipan and returned to China. In this past month, we have requested assistance from the local government and U.S. Department of Labor, but the situation has not been resolved. Our wives and children at home are in tears. Therefore, we urge the Chinese government to reach out and provide a helping hand to us, persuading Gold Mantis to pay the wages prescribed by the law.

Thank you.

Worker Representatives:

ZHOU Qing Jiang: +1670-7885885 (mobile phone); 15143310199 (WeChat ID)
WANG Feng Kai: +1670-7886360 (mobile phone); xiaokai67890 (WeChat ID)
MENG Hong Jun: +1670-2853468 (mobile phone); mengjun1836882558 (WeChat ID)

Below are the signatures of the 92 workers.

 

Saipan workers' letter in Chinese

Miner Protests in the Northeast and the End of China’s Economic Boom

By Wu Qiang, March 17, 2015

 

Banner reads: "CCP, Pay Back My Money!"

Banner reads: “CCP, Pay Back My Money!”

As photos of the protests by Shuangyashan miners make the rounds on social media, we are witnessing a crucial turning point in China’s history: the beginning of a long depression, of the type predicted to take place in cycles by Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev. After 25 years of continual growth beginning in 1992, China’s period of economic prosperity has ended, and now the decline has begun. China will face a future downward trajectory that will have far reaching implications for its own political system, and for the economic and political configuration of the world.

The problem is that this transformation won’t be peaceful. Instead, it will be marked by the kind of mass worker protests seen on March 12, in Shuangyashan, Heilongjiang (黑龙江双鸭山). Heilongjiang’s governor, Lu Hao (陆昊), addressing the press at the “Two Sessions” in Beijing, said of the province’s largest coal company: “The Longmay Mining Group has 80,000 coal miners, and as of this day they have not missed one month of salary or taken a single paycut.” Not long afterwards, thousands of workers took to the streets and to train stations, protesting Longmay’s withholding several months of salary, making it difficult for them to even cover living expenses. They held banners saying “Lu Hao Is Blatantly Lying,” and “We Want to Live, We Want to Eat,” demanding that they get their salary and social security payments. The protest was suppressed by thousands of paramilitary police, and dozens of the workers and residents who yelled slogans have been ordered to be arrested.

Just how this conflict will develop, or expand, has yet to be seen. The Chinese economy has been quietly approaching an inflection point on the Kondratiev wave for the last few years—but the Shuangyashan protest is a formal announcement of the beginning of the transformation: for a long period from here on out, economic depression will be accompanied by mass unemployment and continual waves of worker protests. Xi Jinping has been making alterations to China’s political model to prepare for a long period of economic decline that will, the regime hopes, not result in shattering its rule.

To begin with, this preparation comes from the economic theories of Li Keqiang known as the “Likonomics.” In 2013, just after Li Keqiang had become the Prime Minister, he proposed using electrical output, coal consumption, and rail freight volume as the three main indicators of economic activity—a means of sweeping aside the usual faked numbers and data used to calculate economic growth by GDP. The numbers showed that China’s production, import, and consumption of coal reached their peak and then began dropping in 2013. In 2014 and 2015 China’s coal output dropped 3.5% each year. The price of coal collapsed precipitously, and by the end of 2015 the pithead price of a ton of coal in Shanxi, a major coal producing region, sat at between 180 and 190 yuan. But the cost at large mines is 278-340 yuan a ton—meaning that there is about 100 yuan of loss for every ton of coal. According to figures from the China Coal Association published at the end of 2015, there were financial losses across 90% of the industry.

Meanwhile, although every year Chinese GDP growth figures only show a minor drop, the example of the coal industry shows that the circumstances are probably far worse. While China’s electricity consumption in 2015 dropped about 20%, another index that I have long observed—the consumption of instant noodles—appears to have begun its decline even earlier than coal. It’s been trending downwards for four years, dropping 10.6% industry-wide in 2014. The average number of packs consumed per person was 30, far less than the world’s number one, Korea (71 packs) and number two, Vietnam (60). In part there is no doubt that the widespread use of high speed rail has reduced the passenger load on regular trains, in which much of this consumption is done—but the more important factor is that it signals a reduction in the number of migrant workers, who have traveled from the countryside to the cities, providing abundant cheap labor to power China’s manufacturing economy.

It always comes down the same path: government's wanted list.

It always comes down the same path: government’s wanted list.

In fact, the National Bureau of Statistics on April 29, 2015 published a report aimed at identifying the number of migrant workers. It said that though the number had seen a small increase, since 2010 its rate of growth has been in decline. Clearly this population is already insufficient to be relied upon for cheap labor. Or, perhaps, it’s the low cost of living, and the cheap cost of social welfare represented by instant noodles, that have been the prerequisites for 25 years of constant economic growth, or a period of “instant noodle prosperity.”

Strangely enough, “Likonomics” has all but faded in public discourse, while the “supply-side reforms” of “Xikonomics” is raising its head. So-called supply-side reforms refer to economic structural adjustments, reducing overcapacity, emptying inventories, and deleveraging—all these are part of the package of economic structural adjustments proposed by Xi Jinping in November 2015. This advanced version of “taking the old bird out of the cage and putting in a new bird” clearly aims at changing the structure of China’s economy, promoting clean industry, high-tech development, and attempting to reduce the emphasis on coal, oil, steel, and the other traditional backbone industries.

Late last year and early this year, mass layoffs were announced at Wuhan Iron and Steel, Panzhihua Iron and Steel, and PetroChina, and the closure of a number of wells at the Shengli Oil Field was announced. Before this, as early as 2013, Li Keqiang had begun work on rebuilding “exhausted resource areas,” and the transformation of shantytowns around mines and factories, investing a massive amount of capital, and carrying out preventative-style resettlement of the worker populations likely to be effected by the above industrial movements. Lu Hao, a rising political star with a Youth League lineage like Li Keqiang, was parachuted into Heilongjiang as all this went on to take over as governor. But the bad, ingrained habits of Heilongjiang, or the whole northeast, are hard indeed to overcome: in 2014 the cash losses at Longmay in Shuangyashan, the largest coal enterprise in the province, had already come in at 4 billion yuan.

To judge the Longmay incident and its fallout, we must examine the fate of a series of labor rights NGOs in China last year. In preparing for a long period of economic decline, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang have been working in lockstep on precautionary measures: upgrading shantytowns in the mining regions on one hand, and on the other suppressing labor organizations. Staving off the impact of a declining economy is the most important mission of the current administration. A similar series of labor protests in the Pearl River Delta led to a comprehensive strike-hard campaign against labor NGOs. Clearly, given the serious fears that the highest leaders in China harbor against nascent worker movements, they’re willing to spare no effort.

All the same, the crackdown has not stopped self-organized worker protests. The Shuangyashan demonstration was on the surface triggered by a few hasty words from governor Lu Hao, but the deeper and more important point is that China’s period of “instant noodle prosperity” has finished. Now that the decline has set in, no system of wealth redistribution, or change in relationship between labor and capital, or between social classes and the state, will be able to compensate for the losses that will be suffered by workers as industries are eliminated. When the economy was on the rise, the compensation for urban dwellers and lower classes could be supported through selling real estate or revenues from emerging industries.

The previous Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao administration’s “stability maintenance” policies were established in a period of prosperity, on the basis of preserving class interests. The current economic malaise is going to break all these old relations. As of now, apart from an ever-increasing cost of suppression, there is no negotiation over class interests or arrangements to alleviate the brunt of the slowdown. Thus, conflicts will continue to erupt.

All this is directly responsive to President Obama’s comments in a recent article in The Atlantic, a review of the president’s foreign policy: although Obama is satisfied with his success in containing China, he’s still full of concern about its coming economic downturn, and worries that it might spark conflict with the United States. He is worried that China’s internal conflicts will, whether directly or indirectly, impact international relations or even the global order.

The good news is, China’s economic slowdown will help realize the global 2030 emissions reductions goals sooner. But who can predict what changes the next ten years of “negative prosperity” will bring to China?

 

Wu Qiang (吴强), who taught political science at Tsinghua University until last year, is currently a freelance commentator and researcher of social movement.

 

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Two recent short documentaries:

The end of the Chinese miracle | FT Features, Mar 9, 2016

 

In China, A Surge in Strikes, New York Times, March 14, 2016.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004269482

 

Also by Wu Qiang:

In the Wake of the Sino-American Summit, the Potential for a New Cold War, October 15, 2015.

The Four Forces of China’s Politics of Smog, March 15, 2015.

Urban Grid Management and Police State in China: A Brief Overview, August 8, 2013.

 

 

‘In Winter-frozen Earth, Spring Starts to Quicken’

A 2016 New Year’s Message from China’s Labor Community

 

劳工六人图

Click to enlarge.


Dear fellow workers, compatriots, and friends from around the world: Happy New Year!

Toward the end of 2015, the labor community in China experienced an unprecedented attack. A group of activists who have dedicated years to defending the rights and interests of workers were detained, monitored and interrogated by the police. It could have been a moment for fear and paranoia to set in. But those in the labor community and other walks of life responded quickly by drafting a petition to the Communist Party Central Committee, National People’s Congress, and State Council. The petition described in no uncertain terms the severe and widespread violations of workers’ rights and interests over the last few decades, and the inevitable emergence of independent labor NGOs and worker centers and their valuable contribution to the protection of labor rights and social justice, and demanded the release of the detained activists. In less than two weeks, over 490 people added their names to this petition, and over 60 Chinese lawyers joined a legal aid team. This response was followed by petitions, appeals, and demonstrations by over 200 organizations and thousands of individuals from the international labor and academic community in over 40 countries condemning the crackdown and expressing support for the arrested labor activists.

Their calls, however, fell on the deaf ears of the Chinese authorities. The detained activists have to this day still not been allowed to meet with their lawyers. In addition, the Communist Party’s propaganda apparatus—the Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily and China Central Television (CCTV)—launched a smear campaign against these activists, in particular Zeng Feiyang (曾飞洋), essentially sentencing them without a trial in the court of public opinion. Feiyang’s wife and child have been intimidated, and Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅) has been separated from her baby daughter, whom she was breastfeeding when she was detained. The families of the other detained activists—He Xiaobo (何晓波), Meng Han (孟晗), Peng Jiayong (彭家勇), Deng Xiaoming (邓小明)—are all sick with fear, and the whereabouts of another former worker-turned-collective bargaining specialist, Chen Huihai (陈辉海), is still unclear. Their treatment reflects a cowardly approach to the rule of law, and the criminal proceedings are rife with legal and procedural unfairness.

Fellow workers, compatriots, and friends: If the rights and interests of workers who make up the large majority of China’s population cannot be protected, if workers are increasingly deprived of their economic, political, cultural, and social rights, if the confrontations between officials and citizens, workers and employers, rich and poor, continues to worsen, then what are the prospects for everyone to live in a free, equal, fair, democratic, law-based society where “socialism is the core value”? It is doubtful that even our most basic survival and security can be assured in such a society!

Workers on strike at Lide Shoe Factory in April, 2015, in Guangdong.

Workers on strike at Lide Shoe Factory in April, 2015, in Guangdong.

It follows then that defending and fighting for workers’ rights and interests is not only essential for workers, but also to the stability, security, fairness, and well-being of society as a whole. Labor rights activism is not a crime! Labor rights organizations have not committed any crime! Labor rights activists have not committed any crime! Not only are they are not guilty of any crime, they have also made great contributions to our society, state, and nation. They are the underlying force behind a labor movement that has emerged in waves since 2010. They are why people from all walks of society are increasingly paying attention to, and supporting, the labor movement.

China’s 30 years of rapid economic growth is already in its last gasps. Now, demographics are changing, reducing the labor force, and the environment is severely damaged. At the same time, social contradictions and historical debt hidden by growth are surfacing one after the other. Government, businesses, and workers face the dual burden of an economic recession and social instability, and workers bear the greatest share: in times of economic growth they gain the least, and in downturns they inevitably lose the most. Not only are they the first to lose their jobs and fall into poverty, but as soon as they protest they are repressed by the government’s stability maintenance apparatus.

How can it be that the working class is fated to ceaselessly bear all the costs through economic growth as well as recession? Why should the powerful reap the profits when the economy grows and flee in times of recession? In early 2015, the labor community made a proposition to the government known as “the New Deal for Workers,” suggesting reforms to the system of wealth distribution, and universal social insurance coverage. It could be a way to boost domestic consumption, but this requires the government and businesses to give a bigger piece of the pie to labor and society. Similar policies helped the United States make it through the Depression of the 1930s, but do Chinese officials have that kind of heart and will?

Fellow workers, compatriots, and friends, it’s true that we wait on the government to appraise the situation and put forward the correct policy, but we also know that freedom, equality, justice, safety and happiness are things that we cannot wait for—they can only be obtained by fighting for them. We may have to make sacrifices if we choose to fight, but we will gain nothing without fighting for it.

In this new year, labor activism may face an even grimmer situation. But we are convinced that the labor movement will keep advancing. The rights to organize, bargain collectively, and to strike, and the economic, political, cultural, and social rights of workers, will all be achieved step by step.

“Strong grows the grass on plains made rich with blood, in winter-frozen earth spring starts to quicken.”[1] Let this couplet be the labor community’s New Year Greetings that also set our outlook for 2016.

January 1, 2016

[1] Lu Xun, “Strong grows the grass,” translated by W. F. Jenner. (鲁迅《无题·血沃中原肥劲草》).

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Related:

Chinese Authorities Orchestrate Surprise Raid of Labor NGOs in Guangdong, Arresting Leaders, Yaxue Cao, December 10, 2015.

Labour Activist Zhu Xiaomei speaking to workers,  2-minute Youtube video with English subtitles.

 
中文原文《寒凝大地发春华:中国劳工界2016年新年献辞》, translated by a volunteer.