Child Protesters Reap Success For Migrant Workers

Children of migrant laborers who had long been owed wages from a tourism company in Dali, Yunnan province joined their parents in protest this week. The company received a court order to to pay up months ago, but refused to do so. Children’s presence on the picket lines seems to have drawn enough public attention to force compensation. China Daily reports on this migrant success story from the southwest of China:

Xinhua Shizhaizi Co, Ltd (XHS) remitted more than 14 million yuan ($2.2 million) as an overdue payment for a real estate project, including over 8 million yuan in overdue wages for 500 migrant workers, to the intermediate people’s court in the prefecture of Dali.

Ma Zhonghua, mayor of the city of Dali, where the prefectural seat is located, said the government will ensure that relevant contractors and subcontractors pay their workers in full and on time.

The case drew public attention after 13 of the workers’ children, ranging from 5 years of age to 20, jointed their parents in protesting the company’s failure to pay last Tuesday. Photos of the protest taken by tourists were posted online, triggering calls for the protection of migrants’ rights.

[…]After the children joined their parents’ protests, the Dali city government demanded that XHS settle the issue.

Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime Report translates a message from one little girl’s sign, and describes how the sentimentality that the children brought to the rally affected netizens:

“My name is Gao Jia,” read the sign held by one little girl. “I want to eat, to go to school, to drink milk, to eat cookies.”

[…]The appearance of the children appears to struck a chord with China’s sometimes jaded Internet users, prompting new interest in an issue that had fallen out of the headlines in recent years.

[…]While conflicts over unpaid wages have become routine, the children’s protest hovered near the top of Chinese search engine Baidu’s trending topics list throughout the day on Friday and garnered widespread sympathy from Internet users.

“While [a lot of us] are living cotent and happy lives, there are millions out there with no food to eat, no milk to drink,” wrote one user of Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service Weibo.

Not everyone was thrilled with the use of children, including a disapproving microblogger who asked: “What kind of parent lets their five year-old demand their unpaid wages?”

Two photos of the picketing tots can be seen in Chinese language coverage of the protest.

For more on the struggle of China’s migrant workers, see prior CDT coverage. Also see “The Uncertain Future of Beijing’s Migrant Schools” and “Migration Pattern’s Change, Children Still Left Behind” for more on how the lifestyles of migrant laborers affect their successors.


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