Image from 東網.
For updates and solidarity actions, follow the Facebook page “Free Chinese labour activists now 馬上釋放中國勞權人士“. For background, see “Guangzhou labor activists arrested en masse” and “The criminalization of strikes since 2012“.
Totalitarianism knows no end. It simply disposes of those who threaten its stability and security.
On December 3rd, at least 16 labor activists in Guangdong were apprehended, questioned and raided by the Chinese authorities.1 At the time of this article’s publication, eight people continue to be detained by the police.2 Among them are four directors of labor organizations, including Zeng Feiyang (曾飞洋) of the Guangzhou Panyu Dagongzu Service Center (番禺打工族服务部); He Xiaobo (何晓波) of the Foshan Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Centre (南飞雁社会工作服务中心); Chen Huihai (陈辉海), from Guangzhou’s Haige Labour Service Center (海哥劳工服务部) (previously Guangdong Laowei Law Firm Workers Training Unit, 广东劳维律师事务所工人培训部); and Peng Jiayong(彭家勇) of the Panyu Laborer Mutual Aid Group (劳动者互助小组). Four of the detained also work with the above organizations——Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅), He Minghui (何明辉), Sanmu (pseudonym), Deng Xiaoming(邓小明), and Meng Han(孟晗). Among them, Chen Huihai is under house arrest at an unknown location but can be contacted. None of the others can be reached.
In a raid of Zeng Feiyang’s former colleague’s home, police presented a document stating that “this bureau is investigating Zeng and co. for ‘gathering crowds to disrupt public order.'” When the police raided He Xiaobo’s home, they told his wife that He was “under suspicion of embezzlement.” Labor rights activists in Guangdong believe this wave of repression is ultimately targeted at Zeng and He. At 4pm, He’s wife officially received his arrest warrant.
Ye (pseudonym), a seasoned Guangdong labor rights advocate, pointed out that the people affected by this wave of repression have all once worked at Guangzhou Panyu Migrant Workers Service Center. According to him, the investigation of Zeng had been going for quite some time. About one week ago, Guangzhou’s Liwan District Fengyuan Street sanitation workers organized a strike. Wang Fuju (王福菊), editor of independent news platform for workers, “The Sound of the Hammer” (锤子之声), was arrested by the police while observing the strike. Zeng was also there when the strike happened. After her release, Wang revealed that her interrogation was centered around Zeng. Zeng had also once told Ye that he expected to be arrested in the near future.
“It is apparent that these actions are carefully planned from above. The interrogations of our friends show that the authorities are trying to ‘prove’ that these independent labor rights organizations are all part of a group leaded by Zeng, and use that as an excuse to increase the intensity of surveillance and control.” says Ye. Ye believes that this round of repression of labor rights organizations in Guangzhou and Foshan had long been under works. The Sunflower Women Workers Center (向阳花女工中心) and Nanfeiyan, two labor organizations, had their registration revoked mid-year this year. “This is a reflection of the authorities attempting to increase societal control during this economic downturn. On the surface, it looks like an attack on individual labor organizations. In reality, it is an attack on the workers’ movement. Zeng, Luo, Chen and Peng’s organizations are all actively pushing for collective bargaining. When the authorities attacks these organizations, they are in fact saying ‘no’ to the workers’ legal right to collective bargaining.”
Ye added, “China’s economic downturn has taken the form of decreasing exports, and troubles in the steel and coal industries. This is a product of China’s export-oriented economic policy and excessive productive capacity. Many predict that the real economic downturn will take place next year. The authorities will increase the intensity of social control even further then, and enhance their attacks on social and on workers organizations.”
It is not new for labor NGOs in Guangdong (there appears to be few, if any similarly active labor organizations outside of here) to encounter close scrutiny and police repression. The continuing downtown of the economy suggests the likelihood of increase in worker struggles. However, there have not been any recent large-scale strikes, and labor organizations have not been especially active. Labor organizations also lack the capacity and ability to organize cross-regional strikes. Therefore the [state’s] current large-scale offensive at this moment appears to be out of the blue.
On the other hand, Guangdong has been quite “exciting” of late. Several legal cases with national implications have been taking place. On Nov 19th, the trial of Xie Wenfei (谢文飞) and Wang Mo (王默), supporters of the Hong Kong “Umbrella Movement” who were arrested on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”, took place in the Guangzhou Intermediate Court, more than one year after their arrests. On Nov 27th, the decision on the case of Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) and Sun Desheng (孙德胜) was finally announced. The two were arrested in August 2013 on charges of “gathering crowds to disturb public order” for vocally supporting the Southern Weekly (a.k.a Southern Weekend),3 and were kept locked up by the authorities for more than two years while they awaited results that still had not come long after their trial. The judge unexpectedly added “disorderly behavior” to the list of crimes Guo was being charged with, sentencing him to six years in prison, while Sun was sentenced to two and a half years. On that same day, Liu Yuandong (刘远东), an activist arrested even earlier in 2013 for participating in the Southern Street Movement,4 was sentenced to three years in prison.
Why, then, have the authorities chosen this moment to deal with the thorny labor organizations and pro-democracy advocates they had long put aside? Why did it decide to deal with these two forces at the same time at this particular moment, after such a long delay?
Since the cases related to Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” last year, the authorities have changed their modus operandi from a “stabilization” (维稳模式) strategy, to one of “national security” (国安模式). Under the “stabilization” strategy, local authorities decided their course of action. After the events in Hong Kong, however, the central government began to centralize coordination of the whole country’s security measures. The repression of civil society this year was kicked off by the March 7th arrests of the “Feminist Five.” In April 2015, shortly after the Feminist Five were released, the anti-discrimination organization that a few of them had been involved in, Yirenping (益仁平), was declared illegal by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During May and June, a number of anti-discrimination organizations related to Yirenping were also investigated. Some leaders were detained, and many NGOs were harassed and asked to cancel their registrations. Jia Lingmin’s (贾灵敏) trial started in May, and Tang Jingling’s (唐荆陵), in June. At the same time, Wu Gan, also known as “Super Vulgar Butcher” on the Internet, and petitioners from Shandong were also detained. From these incidents, we catch a glimpse of the big cases under the “national security” strategy. Then the infamous “July 9th Crackdown” on lawyers erupted, which lasted until August.
From the mid-August to November, the situation appeared calmer for civil society. Yet, it was also clear that the authorities were preoccupied. The government had been busy preparing for the military parade in August. Beijing and the whole country virtually came under martial law. Following the parade in September, the authorities visited USA and participated in the United Nations Assembly. A few days after returning from the USA, the government also visited the UK and five other European countries. With the end of the October 23 visit to the UK, November could best be described as “the calm before the storm.” (Actually it was not all calm. On November 14th, the Ministry of Public Security announced that the the Xinjiang Special Police Unit had started an all-out assault on terrorists, and killing many after a 56 day long pursuit.) Shortly thereafter, the authorities re-ignited the crackdown on civil society, starting from the South.
It is as if someone is cleaning out their house and takes a momentary break to visit some friends. He puts down whatever he is doing and closes the door (human rights lawyers were not allowed to leave the country during this time), and leaves the house. After fulfilling his social obligations, he returns home and with one hand, sets his automated machine to the “clean” function, and with the other hand, throws out the pre-packed garbage.
The authorities treat the country simply as their home, diminishing any distinction between governance of a country, and ownership of a home. An authoritarian regime has its own agenda (议程). (Actually, it is more akin to a “plan” [安排] than an “agenda,” since nothing is actually up for discussion [议].) Such a regime disposes of anything or anybody that displeases or contradicts it. The terrifying reality is that such a regime appears limitless, given that it gets rid of anything that threatens its stability and security.
Civil rights organizations, independent research institutes, anti-discrimination organizations, human rights lawyers and grassroots activists have been swept away. Now, it is time for the labor organizations to be attacked. Soon enough, the government will have its clean slate.
12 月3日，至少16名广东劳工权利工作者被警方带走、抄家或问话，截至发稿时，仍有八人被警方控制。这七人包括四名劳工机构负责人，广州市「番禺打工族服务 部」负责人曾飞洋、佛山市「南飞雁社会工作服务中心」负责人何晓波、广州「海哥劳工服务部」（原广东劳维律师事务所工人培训部）负责人陈辉海和番禺区「劳 动者互助小组」负责人彭家勇，以及四名与这些机构有工作联系的人士，朱小梅、何明辉、三木（化名）、邓小明、孟晗。其中陈辉海处于软禁状态，可联系上但被 警方控制不知名地点，其他人均失联。
资 深广东劳工权利工作者肖魏（化名）指出，此次波及的人员全都曾在「番禺打工族服务部」工作，另外据他了解，针对曾飞洋的调查已经持续了一段时间：大约一周 之前，广州市荔湾区逢源街环卫工罢工，独立工人新闻平台「锤子之声」的编辑王福菊在旁围观被传唤，当时曾飞洋也在现场，王出来后小魏得知她被问及的都是关 于曾的内容，而曾飞洋也向小魏表示自己可能会很快被抓。
..肖魏说：「这次很明显是有比较高级的统筹布局。从一些朋友被问话的内容可以看 出，当局是要把实际上几个各自独立的劳工机构『证明为』由曾飞洋为首的一个集团，很有可能以此加大监控力度。」他认为，这次对广佛两地劳工机构的打击，布 局已久，「向阳花」、「南飞雁」从年中就被要求注销注册： 「这是当局在经济形势下滑，试图加大社会控制力度的表现，表面上是打击劳工机构，实质是在打击工人的运动。曾、骆、陈、彭的机构都是以积极的姿态推进工人 集体谈判，当局打击他们的机构，其实也是当局对工人集体谈判的合法诉求说不。」
广 东劳工NGO（其他地方几乎没有较有行动力的劳工组织）受到警方的密切关注和打压早已不是新闻，经济形势的持续滑坡也暗示着工人运动增多的可能，但近期并 没有大规模的罢工事件，劳工组织的活动也并不活跃，现有的劳工组织也远远没有组织跨区域罢工的迹象和能力，警方此时大面积「动手」，出乎许多人的意料。
另 一方面，广东最近其实相当「热闹」，一些具有全国影响力的案件被处理。 11月19日，声援香港占中后被捕的谢文飞、王默涉嫌「煽动颠覆国家政权」案在一年多后在广州中院开庭审理；11月27日，2013年初街头声援《南方周 末》后当年8月被捕，关押已超过两年、开庭后迟迟没有结果的郭飞雄、孙德胜「聚众扰乱公共场所秩序」案宣判，郭飞雄匪夷所思地被法官亲自罪加「寻衅滋事」 一条，共判六年，孙德胜判两年半；在2013年更早被抓的「南方街头运动」人士刘远东，在同日宣判获刑3年。
从 去年底「占中」系列案开始，政权安保已从各地为政的「维稳模式」转向统一部署的「国安模式」，并逐步正式投入运转。今年针对民间的打击应当说是从3月7日 的女权案正式开始的，4月女权五姐妹获释后，她们部分人所在的反歧视机构「益仁平」被外交部「点名」违法；5、 6月有多家与「益仁平」相关的反歧视机构被调查、部分负责人被抓，各地有大量NGO被骚扰和要求注销；贾灵敏案5月开庭，唐荆陵案6月开庭；同时屠夫吴淦 和山东访民被抓，「维权模式」大案初现端倪；7月著名的「709律师大抓捕」正式爆发，各种动作延烧到8月。
8月中到11月，对于饱经「战 火」的民间似乎比较消停，但最高权力仍「忙着」却是显而易见。 8月是紧锣密鼓的阅兵准备期，北京全城乃至全国几进入「戒严」状态；9月阅兵后紧接着就是访美和出席联合国大会；从美洲回来没消停几天，就开始了欧洲五国 访问和访英；10月23日访英结束，11月上旬大概是最适合用「暴风雨前的平静」来形容的时刻（也不是真正的平静，公安部11月14日宣称新疆特警经过 56日追击，近日对当地恐怖分子发动「总攻击」，击杀一批恐怖分子）……然后「民间清场」从南方开始继续。
权 力意志看来并不是在治理国家，而只是在治自己家，或者搞不清楚两者的区别。极权有自己的议程（哦，不是「议程」，没有什么可「议」的，应该叫「安排」）， 所有它不喜欢出现在自己家里的人、事、物都不过是待清除的垃圾而已。更可怕的是，极权是无法停下的，它通过清扫来维系自己的存在感和安全感。
- Translators: We now know of 21 activists who were apprehended on December 3 and 4.
- Translators: We now know of 10 people who were detained for several days. One has been released, leaving nine in detention.
- Translators: Southern Weekly: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2014/11/activists-stand-trial-2013-press-freedom-protests/.
- Translators: Southern Street Movement: http://chinachange.org/2013/10/19/the-southern-street-movement/.