China Labour E-Bulletin Issue No. 6 (2002-04-30)

In this Issue:

1. Editor's Note
2. Workers Speak
- Crackdown in Daqing with 60 Arrests and Police Beating
3. Officials Speak
- Limits of the ACFTU for Daqing Workers
4. From IHLO
- Is Social Security the 'Solution' to the Labour Protests in North-Eastern China?
5. Feature Article
- ACFTU and Union Organizing
- Daqing Oil Workers' Protests Spread to Lanzhou; Further Arrests in Daqing


Editor's Note

Special Bulletin on Daqing

Despite numerous arrests and police clampdown, workers from Daqing Oilfield continue their two-month long struggle to press their demands on retrenchment. Latest reports indicate that several dozen participants and organizers of the daily street demonstrations have been detained, and some of them injured. Interviews with eye witnesses and participants give a detailed account of the events.

The Daqing workers' struggle has reportedly inspired fellow oilfield and petroleum workers in other parts of China, such as Gansu and Hebei provinces. Details of these actions can be found in the news update along with interviews in this bulletin.

The most important aspect of the Daqing workers' initiative was their attempt to set up an independent union. This bulletin includes interviews with officials of the local unions who discussed the role and functions of trade unions at the height of the mass labour protests. In these discussions, the official hostility and determination to stop workers' organizing are clear. They also reveal the extent of the inability of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to take any action other than that sanctioned by the party and the government. These discussions and testimonies help us understand why workers in Daqing and elsewhere resort to desperate measures and risk arrest and police brutality in order to represent their demands.

There has been increasing discussion on the prospects for the labour movement in China in the new millennium.Will the ACFTU lead and act as the engine of change at this critical moment? Or will the movement have to rely on independent labour organizing outside the sanction of the party-state? In this bulletin, we take on the first aspect of this issue with an article analysing the nature and functions of the ACFTU. Analysis of the independent labour movement in the wake of recent protests will be forthcoming in the next bulletin.


Workers Speak

Crackdown in Daqing with 60 Arrests and Police Beating

"I think her surname is Ma. She managed to get a letter out today saying she had refused food for the last few days. She's the same woman who had the megaphone in the Square. She was saying to everyone that we're all retrenched workers and there was no need to smash things up . . . At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon that day, she was grabbed by three plain-clothes police. The people who saw it say she was hit and blood was coming from her mouth".

"He was detained, around 4 March, for hanging a banner. . . He said that they hit him with a floor mop until it broke into three or four pieces."


Officials Speak

Limits of the ACFTU for Daqing Workers

"We haven't played any role. The DPAB management have been making all the arrangements and not asked us to take part. We have not been able to say or do anything. You're asking us where we stand on the matter, but the workers themselves have opted for direct talks with the DPAB leaders."

"Because if the trade union doesn’t uphold workers’ rights, then the workers will go and find an organisation that does. He [ACFTU president] meant that the union cannot permit this."

Yet, other officials also feel sympathetic towards the workers' grievances.

"We certainly can’t solve the problem, who can? We can only swallow our anger."



Is Social Security the 'Solution' to the Labour Protests in North-Eastern China?

As local officials disbursed 'emergency' payments to protesting workers [in Northeastern China] and the central government declared its commitment to increase social security spending, more and more mainstream press reports have shifted attention away from the mass protest actions to the issue of social security itself.

ICFTU-Hong Kong Liaison Office discusses why the 'social security solution'is no solution at all, and that the only way to defend the right to livelihood protection is through active workers' participation in a political environment where their collective bargaining power can be expressed freely.


Feature Article

ACFTU and Union Organizing

There is overwhelming evidence that the ACFTU continues to be an arm of the party-state. It has consistently tried to stop independent union organizing. Focus on legislative reform in labour standards is only an attempt at window-dressing by an otherwise irrelevant organization to give the impression that it is performing some meaningful and useful role.



Daqing Oil Workers' Protests Spread to Lanzhou; Further Arrests in Daqing

Chinese workers from the same industry have taken similar actions at different localities of the country to fight for their rights. This is the first time ever since the Chinese Communist Party came to power that workers from the same industry independently fight for their rights. This shows, when their rights were threatened, Chinese workers took an important first step towards future united action.
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