China and ILO Sign Agreement

China Continues to Defy ILO Principles

The Chinese government has taken another step in its policy of increasing engagement with United Nations agencies and organisations. During May this year, the government signed an agreement with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that will lead to the latter taking a more active role in workplace issues in China. This will include advice on job creation, social security reform, health and safety, collective bargaining and dispute resolution procedures.

However, despite China’s increasingly hands-on role at the ILO, the government still refuses to recognise the core principle of the right to independent trade union organising, despite the fact the freedom of association is supposed to be guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution.

After signing the agreement, the ILO director general, Juan Somavia handed over a list of 24 detained labour activists to the Chinese government. However, China’s minister for labour and social security, Zhang Zuoji, denied that his government detained trade unionists and claimed “Investigations have shown that there are no people detained or jailed because of legitimate participation in trade union activities.” Anyone imprisoned had “violated laws and regulations”.

(New York Times, 21/06/01)
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