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Chinese responses to Foxconn suicides

Jun 03, 2010

Foxconn has been notorious amongst Chinese labor activists for years. Its enormous size, the strict discipline imposed on its employees and its cramped dormitories with 3-tiered bunk beds make it stand out from other Chinese IT factories – not to mention the fact that it is the biggest manufacturer of electronic and computer components in the world. But never has this Taiwanese corporate giant had to deal with a scandal as big as this. A spate of 12 suicide attempts in less than five (nine successful) has thrown the international spotlight on Foxconn and the big-name brands that buy from it. A lot has been written in English already. So in this edition of CLNT, we will supplement the extensive English language coverage with three articles which convey some of the Chinese responses to the suicides.

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Workers Challenge "Privatization for the Elite"

May 09, 2010

Since the second half of the 1990s, China has been through waves of privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in a drive to pave the way for a market economy. Previous issues of CLNT have focused on state workers’ resistance to such cases of privatization such as the recent Tonghua Steel incident. This issue will look at an interesting case where an ordinary worker has been persistently and creatively trying to defend workers’ interests in an SOE where he worked that has been quietly privatized. What is notable about this case is that this worker, Liu Rongli, mobilized his fellow workers to try and set up a workplace union and struggled to force the management to offer company stocks to its workers and for greater management transparency. In this issue, we translate two articles written both by Liu about the corrupt privatization of state assets in China, and about the challenge to unionizing in SOEs.

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Migrant workers protest against poorly managed social security reforms in Guangdong

Mar 24, 2010

In July 2008, CLNT provided extensive analysis of how China’s social security system was failing migrant workers – especially when it comes to old-age pensions. Even though Chinese law requires old-age insurance for all migrant workers, until recently, the funds in workers’ insurance account could not be transferred between different cities and provinces. Hence when migrant workers returned home, or moved to a new place of work, most chose to exercise the option of “cashing-in” their pension (tuibao) (see http://www.clntranslations.org/article/31/systematic-government-theft-of-migrant-workers-retirement-pensions).

But this is about to change. On 1 January 2010, new provisional regulations were enacted permitting the inter-regional transfer of social security accounts. In Guangdong, the new regulations were accompanied by a last minute announcement that, from 31 December 2009, workers would no longer be allowed to cash-in their pensions. Many workers did not hear the news and missed the deadline. Some turned to protest in an attempt to get their money. For this issue of CLNT, we have translated an article from the Southern Metropolitan Weekly about workers at the Meitai toy factory in Foshan, who went on strike and blocked a highway after they missed out on cashing-in their pensions.

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Anti-privatization protests at Tonghua Steel

Mar 04, 2010

One the biggest events in recent Chinese labor history was the workers’ protest at the Liaoning Iron and Steel Plants. In this issue CLNT draws attention to yet another protest that also involved state workers – the Tonghua Steel protest of 2009 in Changchun City, Jilin Province in northeast China that was followed by another one in Linzhou Steel in Henan Province. How should we view this new wave of anti-privatization protests by state workers?

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Chinese Labor NGOs and Free Legal Services Always in a Precarious Situation

Jan 26, 2010

This first CLNT 2010 issue does not bring very good tidings. Fortunately the situation may not be as dire as it looks. CLNT has in possession two Chinese government documents related to the so-called “professional citizens’ agents”. The first one is a long investigative report issued a year ago in January 2009 by the Guangdong Provincial Committee on Politics and Law of the Communist Party of China. The second is a circular on the same topic issue by the website of the Baiying Municipal Government in Gansu Province in Northwest China in April 2009 instructing local government departments to put into operation the Guangdong document.

The term “citizen agents” refers to legal advocates, usually without formal legal qualifications, who offer free or discounted legal advice and representation to clients who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Legal aid has become a common strategy for labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta, which assist workers to take their claims to court in pursuit of unpaid or underpaid wages, compensation for occupational injury etc.

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