An Exploratory Research on Work Resumption in Guangdong Province during the Outbreak of COVID-19

Introduction

In January 2020, an unprecedented outbreak of novel coronavirus, later named COVID-19, took place in Hubei Province of China. Since the virus outbreak occurred during the Lunar New Year, the delay of work resumption cast uncertainties on the livelihoods of migrant workers who returned to their hometowns for holidays.

 

Could the government policies protect workers’ rights during this extraordinary time? Are workers aware of their rights entitled by law? Based on these questions, we conducted a series of interviews with frontline workers to find out the situations they are facing during the outbreak of COVID-19.

 

The research methods include mainly semi-structured telephone and online interviews. 41 workers were interviewed, tracked and followed up from the period of 2 February to 3 March 2020. 38 interviews were completed eventually. Most of the interviewees are currently working or have worked in Guangdong Province. The research purpose is to understand the whereabouts of workers, their lives, and the situations of work resumption of the companies they work for.

 

We designed two sets of interview questions to examine the situations of workers who have resumed work and those who have not resumed work. We hope to understand the factors restricting workers from returning to their factories to work, the arrangements by their employers on the delay of work resumption after holidays, and the effectiveness of government policies in protecting workers during this period of time. And, for workers who have resumed work, we hope to understand the quarantine arrangements before they get back to their workplace, the protective measures taken by the factories and sanitary condition in the shop floor, and the workload adjustment in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Research Findings

 

The situation of workers who have not resumed work

The reasons for workers not returning to their jobs
According to the 38 workers we interviewed, 20 of them (53%) were unable to go back to their jobs before the reporting date set by their companies because they were back in hometown for Lunar New Year. Among them, 18 (47%) were still stranded in their hometown on 3 March 2020, the end of the investigation period of this research. Most of them said they could not report to their jobs due to the lockdown policy taken by their villages as COVID-19 prevention measures.

 

Rights protection for workers who have not resumed work

According to the opinion of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, enterprises should take the initiative to negotiate with employees who fail to return to their jobs and set up work-from-home arrangement with them. Enterprises that do not have the conditions to support home-based work operations are allowed to arrange paid annual leave and other vacations for employees. In this research, we only came across with one worker who was assigned to work from home by his company. This arrangement is not applicable to most factory workers because of the nature of their jobs.

 

Regarding the arrangement of paid annual leave and other vacations, among the 20 workers who failed to return to their jobs on time, three of them said they were informed of their companies’ arrangements – one worker said his company would deduct annual leave for those who failed to return to the factory on time; the other two workers said their companies required employees to send leave application in advance, otherwise their absence would be seen as absenteeism.

 

However, for the other 17 workers, they all claimed their company management only sent them text message to require them returning to their jobs as soon as possible, with the date of work resumption provided. The management did not explain the consequences for those failing to return on time – whether they will face salary or leave deduction or not. The worst case among them was a worker who said that his factory unilaterally notified workers to report to the factory before 25 February. Those who failed to report to their jobs on time would be “at their own risk”. This ambiguous statement was more like a threat to workers, implying those who report late to their jobs could be dismissed.

 

The situation of workers who have resumed work

Quarantine measures for workers who have resumed work

We interviewed 15 workers who have resumed work. Some of them rushed back to their jobs after the Lunar New Year, and the others were security guards who stayed and worked during the Lunar New Year. Among them, nine workers came back from their hometowns, three of them were quarantined before they resumed work, and the remaining six workers were not quarantined. The three quarantined workers worked in Huizhou, and they were isolated for 14 days. Two of them stayed in their own rented house and the other one stayed in his dormitory. During  quarantine, the workers could purchase food and other necessities with the assistance of the local residents’ committee. Moreover, the residents’ committee contacted workers via phone every day to track their health conditions and required them to conduct body temperature check. On the other hand, the worker who was quarantined in factory dormitory stated that his factory arranged meal delivery to him.

 

Distribution of protective equipment

15 interviewees claimed that surgical masks were provided by their employers and they were required to put on the masks during work, but the implementation of such measures is slightly different between companies. Most of the interviewees said they got one mask per day from their employers. However, an interviewee working as a security guard said he only received one surgical mask from his employer. For this security guard, the situation did not change until the end of the interview period. Upon the requirement of his company, he had to wear the same mask every day even ” if it has turned stinky.” Another worker claimed that no masks were distributed to him on his first two days of work resumption. He had to wear his own mask for work. The employer had not distributed masks until workers took the initiative to voice their concerns.

 

Based on the interviews, we understand that the interviewees had encountered many difficulties in purchasing surgical masks, regardless of whether they were staying at home or have returned to their jobs. 17 of the 38 interviewees told us that they had encountered difficulties in buying masks and could not provide enough masks for the whole family. Most of them said that they and their family had to limit the number of travels because they did not have enough masks. This showed that employer is an important channel of surgical mask supply to workers. If enterprises did not provide masks to workers, workers would be very likely exposed to health risks during work.

 

In terms of protective clothing and disinfecting supplies, two of the 15 workers who have resumed work were provided with protective clothing for work. Four people said that they were provided with disinfectant and hand sanitizer, and one worker said that he received a bar of soap. The other ten interviewees said that their employers did not provide them any disinfecting supplies.

Preventive measures against COVID-19 in factories

Among the 15 interviewees who had resumed work, 12 of them stated that there was a mandatory body temperature monitoring arrangement in their workplace. In addition, one interviewee said that his factory required all workers to perform a “health check-in” through mobile application to make health declaration on coughing, physical discomfort etc. Employees were required to do a daily health check-in, otherwise they could not report to work.

 

In terms of meal arrangements, four interviewees said that staggered meal times were introduced in their factories to limit the number of workers in the canteen. Workers said that their factory canteen had measures to prevent droplet transmission via saliva or mucus, such as requiring employees to sit and face the same direction and to keep at least one-meter distance with each other. One interviewee said that partitions made of paperboard were set up in his factory canteen, but the effectiveness of this measure is in doubt.

 

Other workers whose factories did not implement staggered meal times claimed that their employers had other meal arrangements. Six interviewees said that their factory canteen had been closed and employees had to buy takeaways outside of the factories and eat them in their workspace or dormitory rooms.

 

In terms of sterilization of workplace, seven interviewees said that their workplace are disinfected every day, and one person said his workplace is disinfected every two days. Door knobs and lifts were cleaned with disinfectants, and cleaners were seen to use disinfection powder to clean the floor.

 

Production arrangements and compensations to workers of enterprises which have resumed work

Some of the workers we contacted said that their factories had resumed production even though there were insufficient staff. Since production was halted earlier due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the original production targets had to be completed in a shorter period of time. Among the 15 workers who have resumed work, four people said that there was a shortage of manpower at the beginning of the work resumption and the workload was heavier than usual. Employees had to fill in multiple positions, and in some cases, even management staff had to participate in the production on the assembly line. Another worker even stated that since there were only about 10% of workers having returned to their jobs, the workload shared by each person was very heavy. The returned workers had to stay in the factory for a long time, even for eating and sleeping. Such arrangement remained in place until 1 March.

 

On the other hand, we also interviewed some workers who went to work as usual during the production halt. They were mainly security guards who were responsible for the security work of the community or buildings. They did not receive any compensation of alternative leave or double pay for their work during the production halt, which breached the Chinese Labour Law. According to the workers, the daily wage during the Lunar New Year holidays and the production halt was the same as normal work days. The only difference was that they were entitled to two extra leave days in February. According to the Law, security guards who work during these few days should be entitled to alternative leaves. They should get days off for every working day during the period, instead of only two extra leave days.

 

General observations

 

The right to know of workers stranded at home violated; negotiation between employers and workers not implemented

While the interviewed workers knew the date of work resumption set by their companies, most of them were not informed of the details of work resumption arrangements, especially the arrangements for those who failed to return to the factory by the reporting date. For employees stranded in their hometowns, their employers in general only urged them to return to the factories as soon as possible. Therefore, those who failed to report to their jobs on time were worried that they would be dismissed or their wages would be deducted. However, the employer has not yet given any definitive answers to the workers yet regarding these issues.

 

Before the official work resumption date, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security had issued guidelines that clearly required employers to negotiate with workers for work resumption arrangement and prohibited employers to unilaterally deduct paid annual leaves of employees[1]. However, in this research, we did not observe any employer following the guidelines to take the initiative and negotiated with workers on the work resumption arrangements.

 

Infringements of employees’ rights were common

We found that Labour Law violations are still commonly found in factories or companies. The most prominent case was a security guard working as usual during the production halt, but he did not receive any arrangement of alternative leave or double pay as entitled by aw. This clearly violatesthe legal requirements of China.

 

In addition, at the initial stage of the work resumption, some companies had to meet their production targets in a shorter period of time despite the shortage of manpower. They arranged workers to work overtime in multiple positions. Some of them might have violated the Chinese Labour Law, especially the overtime hour restriction of no more than three hours per day and a maximum limit of 36 hours per month.

 

The use of Internet is popular among workers but their knowledge of labour policy is insufficient

The policy documents and recommendations issued by the State Council, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and the Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureaus in different cities set out the responsibilities of enterprises during the outbreak of COVID-19 and the rights that workers are entitled to. Things included in the policy documents and recommendations are not only the arrangement of working hours and wages during the production halt, but also the guidelines on hygiene and COVID-19 prevention measures in factories, special arrangements of arbitration of labour dispute during the COVID-19 outbreak etc., which are very much related to the interests of workers. However, during the interviews, we found that most of the workers had never heard of these documents. And they knew little about these measures. 35 of the 38 interviewees said they were not aware of these policies, and the other three workers said they came across some of the measures on the Internet.

 

Many workers told us that mobile apps such as Alipay and WeChat were important sources for them to receive information about the COVID-19 outbreak. 20 of the 38 interviewed workers said that they knew about the epidemic information via mobile apps, TV broadcast and the Internet, such as the number of confirmed cases and the geographic distribution of them. Thus, the existing information dissemination channels were proven to be effective to a certain extent. However, workers were still unclear about the policies related to their rights, indicating that the government, labour unions, and employers have failed to promote labour policies and legal knowledge to workers, and they have not used effective channels to disseminate important information to workers.

 

 

Some thoughts and suggestions

Enterprises requiring employees to rush back to work in the cities during the COVID-19 outbreak is a fundamental factor that led to the infringements of workers’ rights. If the central government and the local governments  levels were truly determined to ensure sufficient time for enterprises and employees to negotiate and cooperate, as they had stated in policy documents at the beginning of the outbreak, they should not have vigorously promoted work resumption at the end of the period of the production halt. They should also have solved the problems of road closure and transportation arrangement in advance.

 

As work and production have resumed since March have in Guangdong province, more and more workers have returned and reported to their jobs. Workers’ salary of February should be paid in March. Questions like how would wages be paid for periods of production halt and when workers could not report duty; how would leave pay and overtime wages be calculated, and whether these arrangements meet the legal and policy requirements should be worthy of follow-up.

 

In response to infringements of rights and interests of workers that have occurred, and to prevent the recurrence of such problems, governments at all levels in Guangdong Province should take up more responsibilities. The followings are our suggestions based on the results of this research:

 

  • Workers who have been stranded in their hometowns should have their wages paid on time, and should not have their wage payment delayed until they returne to the report duty. At the same time, punishment or dismissal of employees stranded in their hometowns should be strictly prohibited.
  • The Guangdong Provincial Human Resources and Social Security Department, labour supervision offices and official trade unions should pay regular visit to enterprises to inspect the implementation of preventive measures against COVID-19, including hygienic measures, information circulation, wage distribution and labour-management negotiation etc. They should also disseminate related report to the public in time. If any violations of government guidelines were found, the government should provide a practical and feasible improvement plan . Enterprises that fail to implement the improvement plan must be punished according to Law, including suspension of production.
  • The aforementioned departments at provincial level and the trade unions should promote work resumption policies through TV broadcast and the Internet, and establish more consultation and complaint channels that fit workers’ usage behaviours, such as online platform to ensure workers fully understand these channels.
  • Given the difficult business environment under the COVID-19 pandemic, government departments and trade unions in Guangdong province should ensure effective operation of the mechanism dealing with enterprise closures, including collection of information on business operation to identify vulnerable enterprises to prevent sudden layoffs. At the same time, officials should take the initiative and provide workers’ rights education to workers at workplaces during the pandemic. They should ensure that workers understand their rights when businesses are facing difficulties.

 

[1] 〈关于做好新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情防控期间稳定劳动关系支持企业复工复产的意见〉(人社部发〔2020〕8号)“Opinions on Stabilising Labour Relations and Supporting Resumption of Business and Production During The Prevention And Control Of Pneumonia Epidemic Of New Coronavirus Infection” (MOHRSS 2020 No. 8)

 

WE is Recruiting a Full-time Research Coordinator

Organisation: Worker Empowerment

 

Position: Research Coordinator (Full-time)

 

Job responsibilities:

  1. Take lead in the development of research on labour rights and policies
  2. Oversee funding projects related to research work
  3. Oversee publications and publicity of research work
  4. Develop and supervise the research team

 

Requirements:

  1. University graduate with a degree in social science
  2. At least three years of solid experience in research, in NGO setting preferred
  3. Experience in small team management with good problem solving skills
  4. Knowledge in China labour rights issues is desirable
  5. Good written and verbal communication skills in Chinese (both Cantonese and Mandarin) and English
  6. Proficiency in MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and Chinese Word processing
  7. Flexible in working hours and willing to work overtime when required

 

Closing Date: 30 March 2020

 

Description of organisation: Worker Empowerment is a non-profit labour organisation based in Hong Kong SAR. It commits to promote for the protection of the rights of workers in China.

 

Interested parties please send your application with full resumé indicating date of availability and expected salary to email: workerempowerment@gmail.com

 

(Chinese translation of the recruitment advertisement are as follows / 中文版如下)

 

機構名稱:勞動力

 

職位名稱:研究統籌(全職)

 

職務範圍:

  1.  帶領中國勞工權益及政策的研究工作
  2. 負責研究項目的落實推行
  3. 負責研究的出版和推廣工作
  4. 建立及發展研究工作團隊

 

資歷要求:

  1. 大學學歷,社會科學相關學系畢業
  2. 最少三年從事社會科學研究經驗,曾在非政府組織從事研究工作為佳
  3. 有管理小团隊經驗,擅長解決問題
  4. 對中國勞工問題有認識為佳
  5. 優秀中英文寫作和會話能力
  6. 能使用 MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) 及中文打字
  7. 彈性工作時間,特定要求下能加班工作

 

結束招聘日期:2020年3月30日

 

機構簡介:
勞動力是一個非牟利香港勞工機構,以提倡中國內地的勞工權益及保障為宗旨。

 

有意應徵人士請將求職信連同個人履歷、到職日期及預期薪金透過電郵發送至:workerempowerment@gmail.com

2 of WE’s publications from 2018 translated and published online

2 of Worker Empowerment’s publications from 2018, the Report on Workers’ Wages and Living Expenses in 4 Types of Regions in Guangdong and the Research Reports on Labour Conditions of Service Sector Workers in China are now translated and published in English.

Report on Workers’ Wages and Living Expenses in 4 Types of Regions in Guangdong had compiled the prices of daily necessities, wage levels, overtime hours and social insurance of 4 regions with different minimum wage levels, in order to provide a brief picture on the income/expenditure composition of ordinary workers’ families. This is used to further examine the extent in which workers’ lives were helped by the minimum wage level.

The Research Reports on Labour Conditions of Service Sector Workers in China includes a general report portraying the general trend and common mistreatment, a report on hotel workers and a report on sanitation workers in Guangzhou. Amidst the industrial shift the Guangdong area, this set of reports is intended to provide some primary observations after questionnaires and interviews with service sector workers.

You can now find the two publications online through the two links below:

Report on Workers’ Wages and Living Expenses in 4 Types of Regions in Guangdong: https://issuu.com/workerempowerment/docs/_________1

Research Reports on Labour Conditions of Service Sector Workers in China: https://issuu.com/workerempowerment/docs/__________2

 

Statement – 1 year since the arrest of Fu Changguo

Fu Changguo, staff member of the Dagongzhe Workers Centre in Shenzhen and partner of Worker Empowerment, has been summoned by the Pingshan District Public Security Sub-Bureau on 10 August 2018 in connection with the protest by the Jaisic workers and has been held incommunicado since then. Today marks a full year of detention of Fu Changguo, during which he was held under multiple forms of custody. Worker Empowerment expresses deep sympathy towards his family. At the same time Worker Empowerment has been closely concerned with the development of circumstances. Within this year, Fu Changguo and his family have been put through the following unreasonable or even illegal treatments by the authorities: Continue reading “Statement – 1 year since the arrest of Fu Changguo”

Inadequate Increment: A Review of Minimum Wage Level in Guangdong 2018

Released by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (hereafter MHRSS) of the People’s Republic of China (hereafter China) in 2003, the Minimum Wage Regulation requires labour security administrative departments of all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities to review and adjust minimum wage levels at least once every two years. The Regulation has since become the backbone in protecting the livelihoods of the vast labour population in China. In Guangdong, cities are categorized into four ‘wage districts’ based on their level of economic development. Each of the four wage districts adopts different minimum wage levels. While the minimum wage level of Type A districts is the highest, the minimum wage level of Type D districts is the lowest in the province[1]. The Human Resources and Social Security Department of Guangdong Province (hereafter GDHRSS) is responsible for regularly adjusting the four different minimum wage levels. But Shenzhen, despite being a city in Guangdong, independently set its own minimum wage level until the middle of 2018, when the city was included in the minimum wage system of Guangdong. Shenzhen, like Guangzhou, is categorized as a Type A city, but Shenzhen still had its own minimum wage level by August 2018.

 

In 2018, the minimum wage level of all regions in Guangdong was adjusted for the first time after since 2015.  Shenzhen also experienced its first raise in the minimum wage under the principle of biennial adjustment. We have been closely following the issue of minimum wage in Guangdong. Through long-term investigation and research, we try to find out whether the wage levels of workers in Guangdong can catch up with the level of economic developments in the province. We have documented the changes in minimum wage levels in different cities in Guangdong province, and in this paper, we will examine whether the Minimum Wage Regulation remains effective in protecting the livelihood of grassroots workers.

Continue reading “Inadequate Increment: A Review of Minimum Wage Level in Guangdong 2018”

Urgent appeal: Let Fu Changguo go home for his mothers’ funeral

Fu Changguo, the staff member of Shenzhen Dagongzhe Workers Centre, has been detained by the police because of the Jasic incident since August 2018. His mother, Ms. Huang Youyue, unfortunately passed away on 10 th January, 2019, without being able to see her son for one last time. Fu is the only son in the family. His family requests the Shenzhen Police Bureau to release Fu so that he can fulfil his filial duty to organize and attend his mother’s funeral.

 

According to our sources, Huang’s health deteriorated in mid December 2018. The family members of Fu thus petitioned the Pingshan Police Department multiple times requesting them to release Fu on bail so that he could spend time with his dying mother. However, the Police Department declined their request on the ground that “Fu might destroy or fabricate the evidences, influence the testimonies of the witnesses or collude with them; and that releasing (Fu) on bail cannot forestall social dangers”

 

As we have emphasized, while working in Dagongzhe Fu was a law-abiding citizen and had not involved in organizing any workers or inciting illegal activities. We mourn the death of Fu’s mother; may her soul rest in peace. We sincerely hope that the Shenzhen Police understands the situation and allows Fu to go home for his mother’s funeral.

 

WE

Dagongzhe Centre

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

SACOM

Asia Monitor Resource Centre

Labour Education and Service Network

Labour Action China

Joint Letter: Labour Right violations undertaken by Global Brands Group’s sourcing partner in El Salvador

Photo credit: Worker Rights Consortium

Alongside with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and Global Monitor, WE had issued a joint letter to the Hong Kong-based international apparel giant, Global Brands Group (GBG), regarding the shameless act of sudden closure of one of its main supplier factories in El Salvador, resulting in the arrears of  wages, severance and benefits of 824 garment workers.

Hundreds of workers and their families, caught off guard by the sudden closure, are financially precarious due to the irresponsible acts of GBG’s supplier. We demand the Global Brands Group to take up the responsibilities and provide workers with their legally-owed amount. Read the full letter below:

Continue reading “Joint Letter: Labour Right violations undertaken by Global Brands Group’s sourcing partner in El Salvador”

Joint Statement: Release Fu Changguo Now!

In a Xinhua news report published on 25th August, Shenzhen Dagongzhe Workers’ Centre (DGZ) is accused of actively involving in the JASIC protest with financial support from abroad. Huang Qingnan, the legal person of DGZ, was released on bail on 5th September and sent back to his hometown in Fujian. However, it has been over 30 days since Fu Changguo, another staff member of DGZ, was detained since 11th August.

 

Huang Qingnan was in Fujian the whole time when the JASIC incident developed. He was taken to Shenzhen and put under detention on 13th August, although released on bail 23 days later. There is neither proof of Huang’s participation in the JASIC incident nor violation of law. We urge the Shenzhen Police to clear his charge and close the case in due course.

 

Prior to being held on 10th August, Fu Changguo had already been summoned by the police for four times (on 25th July, 26th July, 4th August and 7th August respectively). He was questioned about the JASIC incident in detail, and was asked not to involve in supporting JASIC workers. Since the breakout of the workers’ protest, what Fu has done is merely circulating news about the protest and links to fundraising sites in a Wechat group of workers, as well as visiting the protest scene once as an observer.

 

As the labour law consultant of the worker centre, Fu went to the JASIC factory to learn more about the incident, in which workers’ rights are intruded, simply because of its relevance to his job duties. He had never involved in organizing workers nor their supporters. Circulating news in a Wechat group, as accused by the Xinhua news report, is by no means comparable to spreading rumours online and picking trouble, thus far from “radicalising the incident”. What Fu has been forwarding since July are all news and links to fundraising sites released by supporters of JASIC workers, which are real and forwarded by many others.

 

We urge the Pingshan branch of the Shenzhen Police to respect Fu’s legal rights during detention, as he has been denied access to lawyers until now. It is also demanded that Fu be released and his case closed immediately, after finding out his actions during the JASIC incident indeed involves no crime nor harm to the society. According to the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, the public security organ should submit a request for examination and approval to the People’s Procuratorate within 30 days of detention only with a valid charge on an individual. We urge the Procuratorate to take facts and evidence into thorough consideration, and then disapprove the request for arrest.

 

Worker Empowerment and the Dagongzhe Workers’ Centre are in long-term partnership with frequent collaborations. Established in 2000, DGZ operates under a business license, registered as Dagongzhe Shangdian (Migrant Workers’ Shop), but has been constantly attempting to register as either a social organization or a private non-enterprise unit. DGZ has been serving the community for over 10 years, running a free legal consultation telephone hotline, as well as face-to-face consultation, which benefit around 500 workers per year. DGZ actively promotes legal knowledge for workers by outreach programmes and labour law workshops in industrial zones, equipping workers with legal knowledge in case of illegal exploitation by employers. It also provides activities such as Labour Day commemorative activities, movie screenings and hiking trips.

 

Like thousands of other non-profit organizations in China, the operation of DGZ is constantly under threat. In 2007, thugs hired by factory owners deliberately damaged facilities of DGZ, as well as violently assaulted Huang Qingnan, a staff member at that time, leading to his permanent disabilities. Over the years, DGZ has also been evicted by landlords and compelled to relocate for numerous times. In face of the difficulties, DGZ persists in serving migrant workers in Shenzhen with good intentions, driven by no conspiracy of disrupting social order. We urge the Shenzhen authorities to support DGZ and other organizations of similar sort instead of suppressing them. 

 

Shenzhen Dagongzhe Workers’ Centre

Worker Empowerment

Statement From Worker Empowerment

Worker Empowerment (WE) is aware of an article published by Xinhua News, which mentions the involvement of WE and Dagongzhe Workers’ Centre (DGZ) in the recent JASIC incident.

 

WE is a Hong Kong-registered labour organisation focused on labour rights and labour policies, as well as service provision to vulnerable workers, in China. WE has been honoured to join forces with hundreds of thousands of social organisations and charities serving the general public, which have blossomed in China in the context of accelerating economic reform and improvement of the legal system in the past decade. WE contributes to the resolution of labour disputes and social conflicts with constructive labour policy recommendations and educational activities. During this period, our organization has never been accused of working illegally by Chinese authorities.

 

WE has never been involved in organizing or financially supporting JASIC workers or their supporters. Having been following the rapid developments in the recent JASIC incident, our organization hopes that the rights and safety of all participants are legally and reasonably taken care of as soon as possible.

 

WE has also been informed that Fu Changguo, a staff member of DGZ, has been criminally detained by the police in Pingshan, Shenzhen on a charge of supposedly committing “provocative and disturbing acts” since 10th August. Huang Qingnan, the legal person of DGZ, has also been criminally detained in Shenzhen on the same charge since 13th August. From late July onwards, current and former staff of DGZ, as well as workers who participate in DGZ activities, were repeatedly summoned by the local police for the JASIC incident. These DGZ-related individuals have reassured the police that they are not involved in the incident, not to mention organizing the JASIC workers.

 

To the knowledge of WE, DGZ has been serving grassroots migrant workers since 2000. It provides free legal consultation services to over 500 grassroots migrant workers annually, promotes labour laws and regulations, as well as more than 200 free educational activities and entertainments from which over 100,000 workers benefit. These would not be possible without the effort of enthusiastic individuals such as Huang Qingnan and Fu Changguo, who wholeheartedly serve migrant workers and society as a whole.

 

Huang Qingnan, who suffers from second-grade disability, first received help from labour organizations 20 years ago due to occupational injury. Self-taught in law after the injury, he provided free legal consultation services at DGZ, which was well-received by local workers. In 2007, Huang was violently assaulted by thugs hired by local factory owners due to his work at DGZ. This resulted in permanent disability on his left leg. After the incident, the Shenzhen police acted swiftly to solve the case and arrest the attackers. The municipal government and trade union also gave high regard to the work of Huang and DGZ by giving emergency financial aid. A year later, Huang left DGZ for his hometown in Fujian Province. He goes to Shenzhen only once or twice a year to visit DGZ staff and workers.

 

Fu Changguo, a current staff member of DGZ, is responsible mainly for legal consultation. With first-hand experience of inhumane working conditions in factories after graduating from high school, he taught himself legal knowledge to protect labour rights of himself and the others. Since his arrest, his family and lawyers have visited various police stations and detention centres in Shenzhen, but have still received no information about where he is, apart from the fact that he is under detention.

 

WE is seriously concerned about the current situation of Fu Changguo and Huang Qingnan, since they have been detained for more than two weeks and their lawyers’ effort in arranging a meeting with them has been in vain. WE sincerely hopes that the Shenzhen Police can clear any doubts about Fu and Huang and release them in due course. Meanwhile, as citizens of the People’s Republic of China, Fu and Huang are entitled to the right to meet and communicate with family and lawyers, as well as to be fairly treated during different stages of the legal process. Their health and safety should also be ensured, especially given Huang’s physical disability.

 

Last but not least, the Xinhua article specifically points out that training materials on worker organising were found in the computer of DGZ. WE believes that DGZ as an active organisation has received and archived numerous complimentary training materials. However all activities and legal consultation that DGZ has provided are well-recorded. Keeping the materials by no means equals using them in practical terms. If it is taken as evidence of the involvement of DGZ in the JASIC incident, which results in the detainment of DGZ staff and even potential conviction of committing “provocative and disturbing acts”, the thousands of individuals working in social organisations in China would also be at risk of being convicted. DGZ has been actively attempting to be formally registered with the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs, as well as keeping the channel of communication open with other government departments according to state laws and regulations. DGZ also communicates with the street-level police station on a regular basis. We sincerely hope that Xinhua News will better understand the contributions of DGZ and all social organisations to social improvement before making groundless accusations.

 

Worker Empowerment