Prof. Andreas Bieler and I have been awarded a grant of £275k by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a project on ‘Globalisation, national transformation and workers’ rights: an analysis of Chinese labour within the global economy’ (RES-062-23-2777; full project proposal). The project starts to run from 1 October 2011. On this blog, I will regularly provide a discussion of empirical findings related to this project.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Gangster Nation II

Any popular movie for instance Hunger Games, Star War or famous Harry Potter, has part I, part II and part III.  In the case of this blog, it is not because the receiving rate of the first blog was enormously high so I decided to write it up again. It is, unfortunately because what I wrote on my blog on September 16, 2012 happened again roughly ten days ago in Southern part of China. On December 3, authorities detained 20 labour activists and five are still under criminal charges until now.

Four years ago, grass-root labour organisations in Guangzhou and Shenzhen faced severe suppression. Local labour NGOs’ offices have to be shut down for no reason, unknown persons came to those local labour NGOs’ offices, smashing all the office equipment and also asked staffs at the labour organization to leave the office immediately. Under that difficult circumstance, I raised a question: Whether the state, or the government should be the protector or in fact, is a gangster to bully her own citizen?  

Chinese grass-roots NGOs have always faced difficult challenges. Since the summer of 2012, grass-roots labour NGOs have encountered various obstacles. Some have been asked by their landlords to move out of the offices they rented, with no reasons given. Some have had their offices vandalized by unknown people for unknown reasons. Some organizers have been assaulted by unknown people, again, without obvious reasons. The situation has continued and as we saw, on December 6th of this year, nine labour NGO organizers were arrested; three of them are still detained. The only unchanged factor is, we still don't know the reason for their arrest/detention. One may ask, is it important to know the reason? It is important because a 'legitimate' government as the Chinese government always claims to be, should protect her citizens from 'unknown' harassers and defend their personal safety. We therefore wonder why those labour NGO organizers – whose aim is to help workers better their working conditions, thereby helping the society to have more balanced industrial relations – are suffering such difficulties. As such, I do think the government owes her citizens an explanation for the detention of the labour NGO organizers. The ironic fact is, the labour NGO organizers are the very ones who most need the government's protection (this part of comment is also on red balloon)

I’d like to expand more on my point about whether the Chinese government can provide a justified reason to her citizens. Four years ago, China was under President Hu’s governance, the emphasis was on maintaining stability, therefore from the government’s perspective; those grass-root labour organisations were possible threats to the social stability. However, back then the government failed to explain that why, if the labour NGOs aim to help workers at conflicts of industrial relations, could pose any possible threats to the government. Four years later, as we saw that those grass-root labour NGOs once again, suffered from the severe suppression. At this moment, China is under President Xi’s leadership to realise the ‘China Dream’. A justified explanation is still missing in this action of suppression of those labour NGOs, unless, if we assume that those labour NGOs and the immense number of Chinese workers, whom are the backbone of the society are not in part of ‘China dream’. If that is the case, we must ask, if the ‘China dream’ is selective, which groups could be included in the ‘China dream’?

Finally, I sincerely hope, that I won’t need to repeat what I wrote here anymore, four years is a long time, and one would expect a country to change her strategy to interact with her people and society after such a long period of time. Global academic in the labour studies also launched a joint petition to the Chinese government to release those grass-root labour organisation staffs,

I sincerely hope, in the years to come that China not only to fulfil her global market dream under the ‘one belt-one road’ blueprint, but also to respect her people, to support the bottom of the society, otherwise, the ‘China dream’ will always be only a dream.