NGO activist seized during Dongguan shoe workers’ mass strike • To fight for unpaid social insurance contributions is not a crime!
Socialist Action reporters in Hong Kong
Protesters gathered outside the Central Government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Wednesday May 14 to protest against the detention of 27-year-old Lin Dong, an NGO activist.
The protest was timed one month after the big strike at Dongguan Yue Yuen’s factories broke out over non-payment of social insurance and housing fund contributions by the company, the biggest contract manufacturer of athletic shoes in the world, which makes shoes for global brands such as Adidas, Nike and Timberland. The strike which ended amid massive threats and repression, within dozens arrested and a police takeover of several factories, has set a new milestone for China’s emerging labour movement.
During the strike, Lin Dong of the Chunfeng Labour Justice Service Department Department, a Shenzhen-based non governmental organisation (NGO), volunteered to assist the workers communicate their demands to company bosses. As a result police arrested Lin and placed him in criminal detention on April 22, also raiding his group’s office and seizing two computers. He is now accused under stricter online censorship laws introduced last year of causing an online “disturbance” by spreading information about the strike.
In Wednesday’s protest, supporters of Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) marched from the Western Police Station to the Liaison Office to demand Lin’s release, but also to affirm workers ‘ right to organise. The protesters shouted slogans: “Release Lin Dong! Workers’ right to organize, workers’ right to strike! Down with the CCP dictatorship!”
Nathan of Socialist Action said, “There has been a growing trend of arrests of workers’ representatives in China. Last year, Wu Guijun was placed in criminal detention for “causing a traffic disturbance” during protests by furniture factory workers. Now NGO-activist Lin Dong is arrested. Both could face prison sentences of 4-5 years, showing that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is strengthening repression.”
Chinese workers do not have the right to organise independent unions. The government is firmly in control of the only official trade union body, ACFTU. During the Yue Yuen strike, in which more than 40,000 workers took part, the official unions issued workers with letters, instructing them to return to work immediately. This deepened workers’ anger and distrust of the CCP-run official unions, with many workers tearing up the letters. Also, during the strike, Yue Yuen workers were reluctant to openly elect representatives despite this being legally sanctioned. Their caution flowed from the recent trend of government and companies spotlighting workers’ leaders for persecution.
Jaco of Socialist Action said, “Workers in China have no right to strike. They are often suppressed by an alliance of government, employers and the official unions. Multinational companies collude with the CCP to suppress workers’ attempts to organise; the former for profits, the latter for ‘stability’ to maintain one-party rule.”
The Yue Yuen strike was the largest since the CCP launched its ‘reform and opening’ in the late 1970s. The authorities together with the company responded with a mix of modest concessions (a pledge to increase social insurance payments in line with the law) and repression with more than a thousand police deployed, beatings, arrests, and even dogs attacking workers, with many workers taken to hospital.
Socialist Action and the chinaworker.info website demand:
- Release Lin Dong, release arrested labour activists in China!
- Down with the multinationals’ exploitation of workers!
- Down with the CCP dictatorship!
- For the rights of workers to organise trade unions!
Media Coverage of May 14 protest (in Chinese):