China Arrests Labour Activists amid Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders
In early January, five Chinese labour activists detained since early December 2015 were formally arrested in Guangdong province. China’s slowing economy has led to a surge in labour disputes and made organised labour a particularly sensitive issue and a target of state repression. Zeng Feiyang, Director of the Panyu Migrant Workers Centre in Guangzhou and a prominent labour activist, was charged with ‘disrupting social order’. Three other activists of the same organisation, Meng Han, Tang Huanxing, and Zhu Xiaomei, were arrested on the same charge, with Zhu subsequently released on bail. He Xiaobo, Director of Nanfeiyan, a labour group based in the neighbouring Foshan, was arrested on a charge of embezzlement. Among the arrested activists, Zeng Feiyang was the target of a concerted smear campaign in the Chinese official media. The official Xinhua News Agency and the China Central Television accused Zeng of embezzling funding, of promoting himself as a ‘star of the labour movement’ without regard for workers’ interests, and of sexual misconduct. Nanfeiyan and the Panyu Migrant Workers Center both sued the Xinhua journalist for libel over his report.