Sunday 4 November will mark the 100th day since the mass arrest of Jasic Technology workers and their supporters in Shenzhen on 27 July. China Labour Bulletin calls on the Shenzhen authorities to immediately release all those still in detention as well as those detained subsequently for nothing more than demanding for workers' legal right to establish a trade union.
Of the 30 people arrested on 27 July, four were formally charged on 3 September with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” (聚众扰乱社会秩序). They have not been allowed to see their lawyer since 1 October, and one of the lawyers has now been pressured by the local authorities to resign from the case.
Three of the detained, Yu Juncong, Mi Jiuping and Liu Penghua are worker activists who sought to set up a trade union at the Jasic factory, while Li Zhan is a former Jasic worker who supported the activists’ cause.
Dozens of other civil society and student activists who supported the workers’ struggle were detained in August and it is understood that 11 of them are still either in police custody or under some form of house arrest. Several students at the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing were also punished by their school for voicing their support of the Jasic workers, a move which led to Cornell University in the United States suspending ties with Renmin in late October.
Jasic workers and supporters prior to the 27 July crackdown
The continued detention of the Jasic workers and their supporters stands in stark contrast to the just concluded 17th National Trade Union Congress in Beijing, a self-congratulatory and ceremonial affair that focused mainly on doing the bidding of the Communist Party while turning a blind eye to worker activism.
It is clear that if the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is to become a genuinely representative body that can defend the rights and interests of ordinary workers, it can no longer ignore the voices of worker activists like Yu Juncong, Mi Jiuping and Liu Penghua.
These workers were willing to stand-up to the widespread and long-standing management abuses at Jasic Technology, including the under-payment of social insurance contributions, and understood that the most effective way to defend the interests of their co-workers was by unionizing. The workers were so effective in their organizing that they managed to gather 89 signatures (about ten percent of the entire workforce) in just two days for an application to set up a factory union.
The application was submitted to the Pingshan district trade union in early June but rather than choosing to embrace this impressive worker initiative, the local trade union officials reportedly colluded with Jasic management to set up a factory union instead. By the time the union was formally established in late August, the worker activists had been dismissed, beaten by thugs, and arrested by police.
The issues faced by workers at Jasic, shared by millions of other factory workers around China, could have easily been resolved if the local trade union had supported the lawful demands of the worker activists, and helped to set up a democratically-elected and democratically-run union at the enterprise which could then engage in collective bargaining with management over pay and working conditions at the plant.
Instead, the actions of management, the trade union and the police caused the dispute to escalate into a conflict that made headline news around the world. The Jasic dispute threw into sharp relief China’s widespread labour unrest and the failure of the ACFTU to represent workers’ interests or defend their fundamental legal rights.
If you have not already done so, please add your name to the Action Network petition Global Call on China to Release Arrested Workers, Activists and Students in Jasic Struggle.
Shenzhen Jasic Technology Co Ltd is a privately-owned Chinese manufacturer of industrial welding equipment. It was established in 2005 and was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2014. It has three manufacturing bases in China and employs around 1,000 workers at its Shenzhen headquarters.