Another May Day amidst Freedom of Association violations: the case of labour activists in China

Last week, on the occasion of the International Workers Day, the Hong Kong Confederations of Trade Unions (HKCTU) launched a Global Action Week under the slogan “Say NO to Labour Suppression” to demand the immediate release of three labour activists detained since December 2015.

Indeed, between the 3rd and 5th December 2015, in the Guangdong Province, at least 25 employees and volunteers from four labour organisations were detained and questioned by the police and seven of them were put into prolonged custody or forced to “disappear”. After a series of global and mainland local advocacy, four activists were released. Yet, Zeng Feiyang, director of Panyu Migrant Workers Centre, his colleague Meng Han and He Xiaobo, director of Foshan Nanfeiyan Social Work Centre, continue to be detained.

The three detainees are all labour activists in Guangdong Province, who have been vocal in the labour movement in China. Thus, HKCTU and labour organisations launched a global action week to last until May 9, to urge global labour organisations to send postcards to the Chinese embassies, demanding the immediate release of the activists and a halt to the crackdown on civil society.
Details on the action can be found at the link here.

SOLIDAR members have been active to support workers’ rights in China and denounced the fact that

  • China has not ratified four of the ILO’s eight "fundamental principles and rights at work", i.e. the conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise; The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining; Forced Labour, and The Abolition of Forced Labour.
  • China has just one official "labour union", the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). China’s workers do not have the right to set up or join labour unions of their own choosing. The ACFTU has traditionally been an adjunct of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, whose interests it has primarily defended, attracting severe criticism from many of China’s workers.
  • In 1982 the right to strike was dropped from the Chinese constitution. Any protests and demonstrations are punished most severely.
  • According to Chinese labour legislation, a working day lasts eight hours. However, working days of between 12 and 15 hours are actually the norm, often without any overtime pay

To know more about SOLIDAR members work to defend workers’ rights in China, visit: the websites of our Members ISCOS and Solidar Suisse.

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