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Labour NGOs Stigmatised on National Security Day

Since the passing of the National Security Law back in 2015, the Chinese government has declared 15 April as ‘National Security Education Day’, i.e. a day for raising public awareness of national security issues. In 2017, the authorities promised informants who reported on spies rewards ranging from 10,000 to 500,000 yuan. According to local media, since then the public has provided about 5,000 tipoffs, some of which were useful in catching alleged foreign spies. This year the government disseminated a comic strip targetting labour NGOs among workers in defence-related industries. In it, we see a blonde, bespectacled foreign NGO staff member introducing himself to a plump, bald Chinese labour NGO leader. In the next panel, an NGO trainer is talking to an audience of workers about three key points—how to organise workers to protect their rights, how to establish a free trade union, and how to take to the street to raise demands—while the same foreigner is seen stuffing banknotes in the pocket of the Chinese activist. From this, the story progresses with the foreigner reporting on the success of his activities to his bosses abroad; the Chinese NGO leader holding another training session on ‘western ideas of labour’ and ‘western ideas of trade unions’ for workers; and the workers launching a demonstration to demand higher wages, shorter work hours, and ‘decent work’. However, the exchanges of money between Chinese and foreign NGO staff members catch the eye of one of the workers, who reports them. The story ends with the local NGO leader being interrogated by state security officials and admitting to his wrongdoings while the foreign NGO employee flees China in terror. This is just the latest instance of state propaganda portraying labour NGOs as agents of ‘hostile foreign forces’. IF

(Sources: China File; Global Times; People’s Public Security University of China; The New York Times)

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