On October 9th, 2001, Chairperson of the International Labour Organisation's Workers Group and Vice-Chairperson of the Governing Body of the ILO, Bill Brett, met with Wei Jianxing, chairperson of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). Wei Jianxing is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Politbureau, the most powerful political body in China.
During the meeting Wei said that the ILO was a specialist organisation of the United Nations (UN) and that China was an active participant in the activities of the ILO Workers Group, which it took very seriously. He told Brett that China's policy is to further strengthen cooperation with the ILO in order to defend workers' rights and encourage global social and economic development. Wei also briefed his guest on China's current political and economic situation and the work of Chinese trade unions.
In response, Bill Brett said that China was a great and energetic nation whose economic development had been rapid and that great successes had been achieved over a short period of time. Mr. Brett said that he admired and appreciated the hard work and effort the ACFTU devoted to defending the rights of Chinese workers. He said that the ILO Workers' Group was willing to take its support for trade union work in China one step further.
No doubt such encouragement will be music to ears of the Chinese government, if not labour activists in China. During the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Asia Pacific Regional Office (ICFTU-APRO) visit to China in 1997, the ACFTU stated explicitly that it feels it is denied a "rightful" place as a worker delegate on the ILO's Governing Body. The ACFTU's participation has been blocked by the ICFTU since the violent suppression of 1989 Democracy Movement.
Moreover, the Chinese government has stated that it regards a number of key ILO Conventions as inappropriate to conditions in developing countries and is keen to increase its influence at the ILO in general and on the Governing Body in particular. As a transmitter of government policy, the ACFTU is clearly working hard to regain the position and increase China's influence on the top body.
(China, HK: xinhuawang, CLB, www.ilo.org 12/10/01)