About 50 student activists and workers advocating in Shenzhen for the establishment of an independent trade union have been detained in an early morning raid. Most of those detained are college students from Peking University, Nanjing University, Renmin University, and other schools who have formed an informal coalition with workers at a Jasic Technology factory to support their protests throughout the spring and summer.
— Sue-Lin Wong 黄淑琳 (@suelinwong) August 24, 2018
In July, a group of workers calling for better wages and working conditions and the right to form an independent union were fired, beaten by thugs, and then detained, according to China Labour Bulletin. Following this incident, the workers’ demands gained widespread support among retired Communist cadres, leftists, and college students, who mobilized support online. In August, activist Shen Mengyu was detained and is believed to still be under house arrest. China Labour Bulletin’s report on the early morning police raid includes context on the advocacy movement that had mobilized in support of the Jasic workers:
Sources familiar with the incident which occurred at 5.00.am today, said those detained included Lan Zhiwei, Yu Kailong, and Yu Weiye, three workers who had been released on bail from an earlier mass arrest, as well as student activists Yue Xin, Zhan Zhenzhen, and Feng Ge from Beijing University, and several other students from Renmin University and Nanjing University.
Two workers’ representatives and Gu Jiayue a student who had approached the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and All-China Women’s Federation about the Jasic workers case have also disappeared, the sources said.
The students were part of a growing informal coalition of labour activists, leftist and Maoist groups in China and labour groups overseas who had found a common cause in the Jasic workers’ struggle.
The dispute, which began in mid-July, had captured the popular imagination in China and raised many important issues, such the right of workers to a genuine trade union, and the current imbalance of power between labour and capital that has led to massive wealth inequality in China. [Source]
Yue Xin, a Peking University graduate who has been part of the group supporting the Shenzhen workers, was among those detained Friday morning. Yue had earlier written a public letter detailing the university’s mistreatment of her and her family after she advocated on behalf of a former student who committed suicide after allegedly being raped by a professor. In a subsequent essay Yue emphasized the importance of showing solidarity with China’s working class. She had earlier written about the privileges granted to her and her fellow Beida classmates.
On August 19, Yue published an open letter to Xi Jinping and the CCP Central Committee expressing support for the protesting Jasic workers, and situating that support into Xi Jinping’s highly publicized—and recently constitutionally enshrined—rhetoric on “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” In the letter, Yue notes that she and her activist colleagues are attempting to advance the Party’s stated socialist ideals, writing: “No one can resist the tides of history. We are not a foreign force, nor a student revolution, nor do we make any other political demands. All we want is to fight for justice for the Jasic workers.” CDT has translated the open letter in full. All internal links have been added by CDT editors for further context.
Open Letter from Solidarity Group Representative Yue Xin to CCP Central Committee and General Secretary Xi Jinping
Honorable CCP Central Committee and General Secretary Xi Jinping:
I am Yue Xin, representative of the “July 27 Shenzhen Jasic Workers Rights, Labor Union and Detainment Incident” University Solidarity Group and 2018 graduate of Peking University.
Ever since the July 27 incident, I have felt no peace in my heart.
The Shenzhen Jasic Technology Company, as a matter of long-standing practice, has been illegally adjusting workers’ time off, illegally implementing penalties on workers, deducting from workers’ pay, forcing workers to march, and committing many other very serious violations. Jasic workers have repeatedly petitioned the Human Resources Bureau, never receiving a response. Left with no other choice, the Jasic workers then independently formed a labor union in accordance with the Constitution and Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China and under the guidance of the District General Union, exercising their lawful rights. No one expected they would be punished with transfers, intimidation, threats, and beatings by the factory. Those who did not agree to be transferred were automatically dismissed. Others sustained continued intimidation and threats. Are these not serious violations of the law, a publicly traded company without the slightest sense of responsibility to society, disregarding even the Constitution and Trade Union Law? Even more worthy of disdain is that the factory colluded with organized crime in the beatings of workers Liu Penghu and Mi Jiuping.
However, under less than completely clear circumstances, the Pingshan Police not only failed to fight for justice for the Jasic workers, but rather were bought by Jasic bosses, colluding with them to suppress the completely unarmed workers with an iron fist. Could the reason behind this simply be because Jasic boss Pan Lei is a representative of the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress and a member of the Longgang District Political Consultative Conference? On July 20, Jasic workers and solidarity group members were beaten and illegally arrested. On July 27 it happened again, this time with the illegal detention of workers and solidarity group members on criminal charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Fourteen founding union members and friends of the solidarity group are still being held at the Shenzhen Longgang Detention Center, suffering. Among them, a woman named Zhang Zeying, is still breastfeeding! Not only that, progressive students and justice activists who came to support the workers’ cause have also been harassed by criminal local forces. Shen Mengyu, a representative of the solidarity group, has been kidnapped. So far, no news has been heard regarding her whereabouts. What’s more, many students have been injured by these criminal forces.
Jasic boss Pan Lei and the Jingshan Police are in violation of law and order. Their actions are frankly heinous and unbearable! We hurried here to Pingshan from all over the country to support the Jasic workers. Our actions comply completely with what we are called to do to support rule of law in our country, for the sake of societal fairness and justice, and for the sake of the Party’s reputation!
As all various groups within our nation are working together to achieve the Chinese dream under the direction of the Central Party Committee and General Secretary Xi, we believe the actions of these dark forces in Pingshan show great contempt for the “rule of law” in our country. Their actions violate one of the governing philosophies of the Chinese Communist Party–protecting the leadership role of the working class. It is an affront to our moral bottom line as a country, politically and ethically.
Therefore, to rally progressive forces from all around and denounce this trampling of justice by the forces of darkness, on July 29, I published a letter of solidarity from Peking University students regarding the ” July 27 Shenzhen Jasic Workers Rights, Labor Union and Detainment Incident,” denouncing these ugly acts of malicious local forces. Soon after, I joined offline solidarity group members on the ground working for justice and fairness, struggling for socialism and the working class.
I believe this was the right choice–even more so, the honorable choice!
As General Secretary Xi has said: “Young people across the country must set their ambitions high, increase their knowledge, and temper their will, so that they may shine brilliantly in the progress of the times.” The formation of this labor union by Jasic workers, established in accordance with the Constitution and Labor Union Law, can act as a catalyst for the safeguarding of workers as a subject of production. It is a call for social fairness and justice, pushing a new era ahead in great pioneering strides. As a young person who grew up in socialist New China, a youth who lives in the New Era, I have no excuse to stand by and do nothing, to look on helplessly as the workers of Shenzhen struggle alone.
My four years living at Peking University have acted as a source of motivation for me to fight against malicious local forces. People often say “Peking University is always new.” But, as Lu Xun said, “Peking University is always fighting against the forces of darkness.” Those who came before me dared to speak, dared to fight. As someone from Peking University, I have no excuse to sit by guilt-free as an idle beneficiary of the status quo.
Today’s students are the workers of tomorrow; our fates are closely intertwined. When I joined the offline solidarity group, people asked why I came here. I answered with a question: Why wouldn’t I come here?
Our lives as youth should be integrated into the working class, into the ebb and flow of our times, into the background of this unremitting struggle against the forces of darkness. General Secretary Xi has provided living proof to this point. He sets a great example for today’s young people. In Liangjiahe, General Secretary Xi faced the hardships of rural poverty. He lived among the villagers, ate with them, actively integrating himself among them. After assuming the position of General Secretary, he served the people wholeheartedly, first knocking out corruption, then cracking down on crime–bold and decisive action, going out to meet hardship, all for the benefit of the masses.
Support from brothers and sisters, college students, and enthusiastic individuals from all over the country has enabled just forces represented by the solidarity group to continue to grow, and the momentum of the evil forces has been temporarily suppressed.
They say: The May 4th Movement was anti-government. When you clamor about the spirit of the May 4th Movement, are you seeking to create an anti-government student movement? They also say: The workers’ “Internationale” is a reactionary song. When students should study Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought, are there foreign forces supporting this in the background, hiding their true motives?
Central Party Leaders, General Secretary Xi, listen to this–how absurd are their remarks!
We learn in middle school history books how the May 4th Movement was an extremely important event in China’s modern contemporary history. It was an anti-imperialist, anti-feudalistic patriotic movement, the beginning of China’s new democratic revolution; it led to the birth and development of the Chinese Communist Party. Peking University, one of the birthplaces of the May 4th Movement, has always been proud of this. When General Secretary Xi visited on May 2 this year, he emphasized to the whole university: “Today, in the midst of our Chinese nation’s great journey to rejuvenation, Peking University teachers and students must continue to carry forward the spirit of the May 4th Movement, making new, even greater contributions to the nation, the country, and the people.”
If you characterize our actions as forward progress, as us living the spirit of the May 4th Movement, then we can say without mincing words: “Yes!” But if you’re going to accuse us of invoking the spirit of the May 4th Movement to stoke protests, to oppose the Party and socialism, if you accuse us of harboring unfathomable motives, if you simply equate the singing of the “Internationale” with engaging in color revolution, then we can never make this promise. Those who hold this opinion have completely forgotten the original values of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Government. Could it be that the only reasonable course of action is to cover our own eyes, ignore society’s suffering, and abandon the pursuit of fairness and justice? Is it truly the only right thing to do to violate the Constitution and oppress the working class alongside these evil forces?!
As for those who accuse us of reading Marxist works at the covert direction of foreign powers, the type of people saying this have lost all sense of political opinion. Since its birth, the Chinese Communist Party has adhered to Marxism-Leninism as its guiding philosophy. Implying that we study Marxism only at the behest of foreign powers is tantamount to accusing the Party itself of being an external force. It’s like saying by pursuing fairness and justice, fighting against evil groups, the Party is actually engaging in reactionism.
In some places, dark elements have infiltrated the solidarity group and started making anti-Party and anti-socialist remarks, in a vain yet still despicable attempt to criminalize the solidarity group. These spies have already been identified and cleared out of the group. Any who slander us as backed by foreign forces, accuse us of engaging in student revolution, or accuse us of holding anti-Party or anti-socialist views, it’s all in an attempt to frame us. It’s all intentional smearing of the solidarity group and the Party’s guiding ideology.
General Secretary Xi said: “Adhere to your initial resolve and continue to advance. We must adhere to the guiding position of Marxism.” For a person to talk about politics, only by maintaining correct and sober political judgment can we clearly differentiate right from wrong, or face the largest of storms without fear. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of our mentor, Karl Marx. All members of the solidarity group will heed the call of the Central Party Committee and General Secretary Xi to work hard in our studies of Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought, to take it in like spiritual sustenance. We vow to constantly improve our political consciousness, to serve the masses even better going forward, to incorporate our efforts into the construction of China’s new era.
Here, I represent all solidarity group members in expressing to Party central leadership and General Secretary Xi that I and all solidarity group members will strengthen our political consciousness, strengthen our faith in Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, firmly stand with the working class, and resolutely safeguard Chinese socialism and the singular authority of the democratic people’s government. Until all detained workers are released without charge, the evil local forces are put under investigation, and the basic rights and legal records of the workers are guaranteed, we will continue to fight!
It is our hope that the Party Central Committee send an investigation team to understand the reality of the situation, fight for justice for Jasic workers, and severely punish these evil forces. Specifically, we call for the following:
- Immediately release without charge all workers detained on July 27, and fully restore their legal records.
- Severely punish the police, dark forces, sinister factory Jasic Technology President Pan Lei, and all relevant management.
- Prohibit the expulsion of workers and students; prohibit retaliation.
- Allow all workers standing up for their rights to return to work and lawfully establish a labor union.
- Compensate the workers for losses and issue an apology.
- Conduct a thorough investigation into the kidnapping cases of Shen Mengyu and Xiao Hu, so that they may regain their personal freedom.
No one can resist the tides of history. We are not a foreign force, nor a student revolution, nor do we make any other political demands. All we want is to fight for justice for the Jasic workers. We will always remember the central Party leadership’s trust and high hopes for us. We believe justice will be done. Rule of law in China will certainly continue to broaden. We also firmly believe and sincerely look forward to receiving the support of central Party leadership and General Secretary Xi Jinping!
Honorable CCP Central Committee and General Secretary Xi, we first hoped to personally deliver this letter into your hands in Beijing and to listen to your direction in person. But the situation here on the front lines is urgent. Messages run into layer upon layer of blockages. Petitioning channels are being blocked at each level up to the top. We have no other recourse but to send this to you via the internet. We have faith that relevant central government departments will forward the letter on to you, as all Party members care about the suffering of the masses–they wouldn’t seize this letter.
General Secretary Xi: we know the future of young students is of utmost concern to you, as you take time out of your busy schedule to carefully read all of the letters sent to you by students. Last year, we were really inspired by your response to a letter written by a student from Moscow. The students of Peking University, Renmin University, Nanjing University, and other institutions of higher learning sincerely hope to also receive a response letter and teachings from you one day. We here on the front lines look forward to hearing the good word from you!
Sincerely, with Salute,
Yue Xin, Representative of the “July 27 Shenzhen Workers Rights and Detainment Incident” University Solidarity Group
August 19, 2018 in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. [Chinese]
Translation by Little Bluegill.