January 5, 2008
China to switch to lethal injections
January 3, 2008
Who owns Mao's millions?
An under-noticed aspect of Mao's personality cult is that it made him millions in royalties from sales of the Little Red Book and other works. His estate is now apparently worth over US$17 million, and the money keeps piling up because the leadership can't figure out who should get it. (A decision of this magnitude is not going to be made by a mere judge.) Jiang Qing apparently made a claim to it - unsuccessfully, of course - as apparently have two of Mao's children. Here's a recent BBC article on the issue. Thanks to China Digital Times for the tip.
January 2, 2008
Liang Jing on China's Labor Contract Law
Here's an interesting piece on China's new Labor Contract Law by political commentator Liang Jing (a nom de plume). Translation courtesy of David Kelly.
Liang Jing, "Why does the new labor law have more failures than successes?"
A story was widely reported in the Chinese media on December 2 that the government-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions, in the face of an emerging wave of layoffs as an increasing number of employers attempted to circumvent the impending enactment of the Labor Contract Law on January 1, had recently issued a circular to safeguard employees' legitimate rights and interests, urging the resolute correction of actions such as forced resignations and re-signed labor contracts. The ACFTU's "notification" pointed that the actions employers' in violation or evasion of the labor laws "impacted negatively on building a socialist harmonious society." It required trade union organizations at all levels to "search out actions by employers that violate existing labor laws and regulations, or evade the Labor Contract Law in violation of employees' rights, and resolutely demand their rectification. They should actively report and express their views and recommendations to local Party committees and governments, and coordinate with labor administrative agencies in seriously dealing with them. Representative cases that were evil in nature and most influential must be grasped in toto, and not tolerated." This meant that the highest levels of the CPC was carrying out a political mobilization through the government-run trade union, and launching a political offensive against employers who make good profits, and whose treatment of workers is much better than the general level.
Have China's higher levels gone crazy? Why did they have to mobilize such a political offensive where there can be no winner? Are workers' rights really the objective of this political offensive? Those who understand the situation in China are quite clear that ringleader in destroying social harmony is none other than the authorities themselves, who in their wisdom enacted the Labor Contract Law.
The low level of labor rights has not only become a disgrace to China, but is also an enormous threat to global economic balance and stability. However, the Communist Party rulers, who refuse to give up dictatorship, do not know how to solve the problem. What is more, the old Bolsheviks, represented by Song Ping, were foolish enough to believe that they could use the protection of labor rights to achieve the political aim of consolidating the Communist dictatorship. This tendency of Song Ping, who was Hu Jintao's mentor, was a major influence on the new labor legislation, to the extent of writing some unrealistic labor standards into the Labor Contract Law. Triggering the massive layoffs by employers prior to the implementation of the new law, were the provisions for contracts with no fixed terms. This new requirement caused Chinese enterprise employers with the best operating conditions to be tremendously concerned, and one after another to get older workers to abandon their rights to "no fixed term contract" at high prices before the implementation of the new law. It has been reported that one company, Huawei spent 1 billion yuan on this. Of course, not all enterprises' retrenched workers could be as fortunate in their compensation as in the case of the Huawei workers.
Clearly, the run-up to enactment of the new labor legislation has been a lose-lose for both parties. Faced with an ever-rising tide of layoffs, China's rulers find themselves in great embarrassment. Hence they have instinctively switched on the one-party authoritarian state machinery, exerting political pressure on employers to try to check the wave of layoffs. However, the real purpose of the political offensive is not safeguarding workers' rights, but saving the authorities' face.
While the political offensive against employers may suppress the wave of layoffs, it once again fully exposes that, rather than the rule of law, what the CPC truly believes in is politics with an iron fist. The problem is that this is able to safeguard the rights neither of employers nor of labor, because the CPC's power base is neither capitalists nor workers, but bureaucrats.
Both the newly promulgated Labor Contract Law and the forthcoming Labor Dispute Handling Law inevitably have more failures than successes, causing much trouble for Hu's "harmonious society." The fundamental reason for this is not that unrealistic labor standards are formulated, but that the new legislation fails to grant Chinese citizens more autonomous rights, and in particular fails to allow workers to organize themselves to struggle for their own rights and interests.
While the Chinese authorities now say the new labor law is being misinterpreted, it is in fact quite clear to everyone apart from a few self-deluding leaders that the losers are the employers, while the winners are not the workers, but labor officials who have won more power. With the new labor laws, having devoured the accused they can polish off the plaintiff, and in the game of "maintaining fairness" in cutting the cake, carve themselves a bigger slice.
January 1, 2008
Political arrests up in 2006
The just-published 2007 China Law Yearbook reveals that in 2006 state prosecutors approved the arrest of 604 individuals detained by public security and state security police in ESS [i.e., "endangering state security"] cases, up from 296 in 2005. This marks the highest number of ESS arrests in China since 2002.
Obviously, there are also cases that don't get reported, as well as what are effectively political cases brought under a non-political rubric (e.g., convicting Chen Guangcheng of obstructing traffic).
December 31, 2007
New report from China Labour Bulletin
China Labour Bulletin, a worker rights organization based in Hong Kong, has just published a report on the Chinese labor movement from 2005 to 2006. The introductory blurb is below. The full text of the report is here.
A challenge and an opportunity for China's official trade union
The implementation of the Labour Contract Law tomorrow will be both a challenge to and a tremendous opportunity for the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to start acting as an authentic representative of and advocate for labour.
The law provides the ACFTU with the legislative tools it needs to negotiate genuine and meaningful collective contacts with management at the factory level. If however the ACFTU does not utilize this opportunity, China Labour Bulletin believes workers in China will sooner or later find ways to organize an effective counterforce to management on their own terms.
CLB today publishes the second in our two-yearly series of research reports on the state of the workers' movement in China. The report documents the development of the labour movement from 2005 to 2006 and its increasing importance in Chinese society. It concludes that while the movement may still be fragmented and disorganized, migrant workers, laid off workers and those still employed in former state-owned enterprises (SOEs) now share the same experiences and suffer the same injustices. Workers in China increasingly share a common interest and face a common adversary. Indeed, the situation in China today is analogous to the pre-unionized period in Western industrialized countries where workers were routinely exploited by industrialists and factory owners. The trade union movement grew as a response to that exploitation. The challenge for the ACFTU now is either to join China's growing workers' movement or to remain on the sidelines – an increasing irrelevance to the real issues.
CLB's 56 page English language report outlines the economic, legislative and social background to the workers' movement in 2005 and 2006, and examines in detail the worker protests that occurred in this period. It looks at both the "privatization disputes" that arose during the process of and after the restructuring of SOEs, and also the more general labour disputes that occurred, primarily in the private sector, in response to specific and widespread violations of labour rights such as non-payment of wages. It examines the government's twin-track response to these protests - of conciliation in some cases and repression in others, and pays particular attention to the ACFTU and its effectiveness in protecting workers' rights. The report examines the official union's role in drafting and promoting labour legislation, the actions it has taken to lessen the burden of migrant workers and those laid-off from SOEs, and its attempts to organize workers into basic-level unions. Finally, the report discusses the systemic problems that have thus far prevented the ACFTU from making a real difference in workers' lives.
The report is based on documents issued by the Communist Party, the government and the ACFTU, statements of government and union officials, academic articles, official statistics, domestic media reports and the notes recorded from CLB telephone interviews. It is intended to serve as a convenient, one-stop reference source on the major issues and concerns of the Chinese labour movement during 2005-06.