Ivan Franceschini is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World, The Australian National University. He has been working on Chinese labour activism for over a decade and his current research mainly focuses on China's presence in Cambodia.

The Last Days of Shi Yang

What follows is a fictionalised account of the last days of Shi Yang (1889–1923) based on the prison diaries included in the commemorative volume Shi Yang jinian wenji (Museum of the 7 February Massacre, Wuhan 1988). Shi Yang was a weiquan lawyer ante litteram, and to this day he remains an inspiration to many labour activists in China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrates him as a martyr of the revolution, the irony of which will not escape those who are aware of the plight of human rights lawyers and labour activists in the country today. That in April 2018 the Chinese government passed a new law to protect the reputation and honour of ‘its’ heroes and martyrs can be seen as further adding to the irony.

A ‘Pessoptimistic’ View of Chinese Labour NGOs

We’ve entered a grey area: we’re not organisations anymore, and maybe in the future we’ll be reduced to only a few individuals.   This was the ominous prediction of one Chinese labour activist in Shenzhen in 2016. If we consider that these words were proffered in the midst of the worst crackdown that labour NGOs […]

Resurrecting the Dead

Lu Xun today lives a new life in his homeland as well as abroad. However, given the vastness and unevenness of his oeuvre, not all his works receive the same attention. In particular, one collection of short stories stands out for their neglect: Old Tales Retold, a series of comic sketches based on ancient Chinese myths and legends published shortly before his death. This essay focusses on this semi-forgotten pearl and its relevance for today’s readers.

Beyond the Great Paywall: A Lesson from the Cambridge University Press China Incident

On 18 August it was revealed that Cambridge University Press had complied with the demands of Chinese government censors to block access on its website in China to hundreds of ‘politically sensitive’ articles published in its prestigious China Quarterly journal. The ensuing debate has generally overlooked the problematic nature of the commercial academic publishing industry. Isn’t it time to take the profit motive out of the equation and to rediscover a certain measure of idealism in academia?

Outsourcing Exploitation: Chinese and Cambodian Garment Workers Compared

In recent years, much has been written about how increasing labour costs in China are pushing investors to move labour-intensive production to other countries where wages are still low. But what does this shift in global capital trends entail for workers? How do the workforces in these new outsourcing destinations fare compared to their Chinese counterparts? In order to gain a better understanding of the human cost of this latest capital flight, this essay compares garment workers in China and Cambodia.

Slaving Away: The ‘Black Brick Kilns Scandal’ Ten Years On

In the spring and summer of 2007, bands of aggrieved parents roamed the Chinese countryside looking for their missing children, whom they learned had been kidnapped and sold as slaves to illegal kilns. Thanks to the involvement of Chinese media and civil society, the so-called ‘black brick kilns incident’ becameone of the most remarkable stories of popular mobilisation and resistance in contemporary China. Now that ten years have passed, are there any lessons that we can draw from this moment in history?

Meet the State Security: Chinese Labour Activists and Their Controllers

Chinese labour NGOs have to deal with several state bodies. Still, given their reliance on foreign funding and the political sensitivity of labour issues in China, the agency they have the most dealings with is probably State Security, a secretive branch of the public security apparatus charged with protecting the country from domestic political threats. How do labour activists manage to navigate this challenging terrain?

Chinese Workers and the Law: Misplaced Trust?

One fascinating question concerning labour activism in contemporary China regards the attitude of Chinese migrant workers towards the law. In recent years, much has been written about the ‘rights awakening’ (quanli de juexing) of Chinese workers. But what kind of rights are we talking about? Do they respond to an entirely subjective concept of justice […]

The Foreign NGOs Management Law: A Compendium

Recently, people from the State Security who had summoned me to ‘have a tea’ said to me: ‘Us from the State Security are still quite civilised, but with this coming law that will regulate NGOs you will have to deal with the Public Security [i.e. the police]. You have to understand that their work methods […]

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