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General News    H3'ed 12/30/15

China Cracks Down On Guangdong Labor Activists

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Seven activists in Guangdong province, a key manufacturing hub in China, have been detained in a major crackdown on labor rights organizers. The arrests follow a steep rise in protests and strikes at factories that have long exploited migrant workers from rural areas with low pay and working conditions.

The detainees include Zeng Feiyang and Zhu Xiaomei of the Panyu Migrant Workers Service Centre, together with former staffers Tang Jian and Meng Han; Peng Jiayong of the Laborer Mutual Aid Group; He Xiaobo, director of Foshan Nanfeiyan Social Work Services Organization; and Deng Xiaoming of the Haige Workers Center.

The Panyu Migrant Workers Service Centre has been in the limelight for the last year after the organization helped workers at Taiwanese-owned Lide shoe factory in Panyu to go on strike. After over 9 months of negotiation, the workers were able to convince the owners to pay them social insurance, housing fund contributions, overtime and annual leave payments, some of which had been in arrears for almost 20 years. (Lide makes shoes for Western retailers like Coach)

Authorities refused to allow the seven activists to meet with lawyers or publish detailed charges against them. Instead Xinhua, the official state new agency published a lengthy attack on Zeng Feiyang, the director of Panyu Migrant Workers Service Centre last week.

"Workers' representatives believe that the real motive of Zeng Feiyang et al is to incite workers to strike, create a social impact, interfere with factories' normal production and disturb social order," the news agency wrote.

Activists were outraged. "It simply shows how the government is not genuinely following its own laws and judicial procedures," Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, told the South China Morning Post. "Putting these people on a 'public trial' by the national media instead of following formal procedures deprives them of any chance to have a fair trial."

"As a lawyer, I would like the charges made by a country against a citizen to be in the courts, rather than handling them in the manner of 'Cultural Revolution' posters," Cheng Zhunqiang, Zeng's lawyer, told Reuters.

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