Guangdong labour activists detained for 100 days as worker unrest continues

Labour activists Zeng Feiyang, Meng Han and He Xiaobo will on Saturday 12 March have been detained by the Guangdong authorities for 100 days. Meanwhile, worker unrest in the province continues unabated with at least 124 strikes and protests recorded on CLB’s Strike Map in the last three months.

Zeng Feiyang and Meng Han of the Panyu Workers Centre have been charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” while He Xiaobo of the Nanfeiyan Centre in Foshan has been charged with “the misappropriation of funds.”

Zeng Feiyang, Meng Han and He Xiaobo

The three activists were detained on 3 December along with more than a dozen others in a coordinated crackdown on civil society labour groups in the Guangzhou region. Other activists including Zhu Xiaomei, Peng Jiayong and Deng Xiaoming were subsequently released but are currently unable to continue their work helping workers organize and to engage in collective bargaining with their employer.

Staff at the Panyu Centre and other labour groups in the region played a vital role in ensuring workers could resolve their disputes with management satisfactorily and thereby reduce labour tensions in Guangdong. Since their detention, labour disputes have continued to erupt and, as one workers’ leader who had been helped by staff at the Panyu Centre noted, without the moderating influence of the labour groups, frustrated workers may resort to more extreme measures in pursuing their demands.

In the last few days alone, around 3,000 workers at a home appliance factory in Shenzhen went out strike to demand layoff compensation, about 2,000 workers at a Delphi factory in Guangzhou went on strike over relocation plans (several were beaten or arrested by police), and 300 workers at an electronics plant in Dongguan staged a protest, again demanding relocation compensation.

It is clear that the Guangdong authorities are unable to cope with the rising tide of labour unrest in the province: Their only response so far has been to threaten and intimidate workers and detain the labour activists and labour relations experts who could actually help.

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