Made in China Briefs

The Briefs are summaries of recent occurrences in the realm of labour and civil society in China, with links to original sources and documents. This section offers a timeline of the main events since 2016.
December 2019

China’s Threats to Academic Freedom Abroad

Fears of China’s growing threat to academic freedom have heightened worldwide. On 30 October, the Belgian authorities denied a residence permit to Song Xinning, former director of the Confucius Institute at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels, making it impossible for him to return to his job or enter any other country in the Schengen area. […]

December 2019

Human Rights Activists under Assault

In the last quarter of 2019, China’s treatment of human rights activists remained worrisome. On 17 October, Sophia Huang Xueqin, a prominent activist and independent journalist that played an important role in China’s #MeToo movement, was detained in Guangzhou after reporting on protests in Hong Kong. She was then transferred to ‘residential surveillance in a […]

November 2019

Elections and More Mass Demonstrations in Hong Kong

In the last quarter of 2019, protests in Hong Kong did not show any sign of abating. On 1 October, China’s National Day, the city was shaken by the biggest demonstration since the protests began in late April. Shortly afterwards, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers to ban face masks, which […]

October 2019

Ilham Tohti Awarded the Sakharov Prize and Other Updates on Xinjiang

Situations in Xinjiang continued to draw international attention in the fourth quarter of 2019. On 24 October, Ilham Tohti, a vocal Uyghur professor who in 2014 was sentence to life imprisonment for ‘separatism’, was awarded Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament, which subsequently went on to adopt a resolution on the […]

August 2019

Protests Continue Unabated in Hong Kong

Mass protests in Hong Kong, initially sparked by the local government’s proposal to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, have shown no sign of abating in the third quarter of 2019. Following the city’s largest-ever demonstration on 16 June and the storming of the city’s legislature by an aggressive group of protestors […]

July 2019

Repression in Xinjiang Garners International Attention

In the third quarter of 2019, the ongoing deterioration of the situation in Xinjiang continued to make waves on the international stage. According to the Xinhua News Agency, on 2 July, during a trip to China, Turkish President Erdogan told Xi Jinping that ‘residents of all ethnicities in China’s Xinjiang are living happily’, though Turkish […]

July 2019

Suspicious Deaths and More Arrests

Persecution of rights activists in China has persisted throughout the third quarter of 2019, with two passing away while in police custody. On 10 July, ‘barefoot lawyer’ Ji Sizun died of unknown causes two months after leaving prison. He had finished serving his most recent sentence of four and a half years. Activist Wang Meiyu, […]

July 2019

Rising Tensions on University Campuses Worldwide

The past few months have witnessed heightened tensions on university campuses worldwide, as pro-Beijing demonstrators clashed with supporters of the Hong Kong protests. In late July, a sit-in staged by Hong Kong students at the University of Queensland in Australia to show solidarity with pro-democracy protestors back home turned violent when pro-Beijing students showed up […]

May 2019

May Fourth and June Fourth Anniversaries

The second quarter of 2019 has been rife with political symbolism and significance for China’s ruling Communist Party, having marked the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement and the 30th anniversary of the June Fourth Incident (see Lanza’s op-ed in the present issue). The 1919 May Fourth Movement was an anti-imperialist campaign that grew […]

April 2019

Sustainability of China’s State Pension Fund in Question

The financial sustainability of China’s pension fund has recently come under the spotlight. According to a report released in April by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the reserve held by the urban worker pension fund—the cornerstone of China’s state pension system—will peak at 7 trillion yuan in 2027 and then start to drop steadily, […]

April 2019

Permanent Crackdown on Student and Worker Activist

The second quarter of 2019 once again saw heightened repression of Chinese student and worker activists—a further intensification of the crackdown that began in July 2018. As Xi Jinping hailed the nationalist legacy of the May Fourth Movement, calling on the Chinese youth to love their country and follow the leadership of the Communist Party, […]

April 2019

New Statistical Report on Migrant Workers Cuts Section on Rights

In April 2019, China’s National Bureau of Statistics released its latest annual report on migrant workers. It was probably the most underwhelming edition in many years, containing the usual sections on demographics, employment, migrant children education, and urban integration. However, this year differed in that there was no mention of labour rights issues. According to […]

April 2019

Murders in the Mines

On 12 April, six men from poor villages in Shaanxi province were executed in northern China for faking premeditated murders as industrial accidents in order to pocket millions of yuan in compensation. Between 2007 and 2014, the six criminals, ranging in age from 22 to 47, murdered 11 mine workers in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, […]

April 2019

China Debates Labour Conditions of Migrant and White-collar Workers

In the second quarter of 2019, China’s public opinion heatedly debated issues related to working conditions for both migrant and white-collar workers. On 11 April, Dou Yongyu, a construction worker, posted a video online in which he smashed a yellow safety helmet worn by front-line workers and a red helmet worn by site supervisors. While […]

April 2019

Hong Kong Rises against Proposed Extradition Law

The second quarter of 2019 has seen growing tensions in Hong Kong. On 9 April, nine leaders of the Umbrella Movement, a mass pro-democracy protest that took place in the former British colony in 2014, were found guilty for their roles in mobilising protesters to block major roads in the centre of the city for […]

April 2019

Unabated Repression

The second quarter of 2019 saw unabated repression of critical voices in China. On 4 April, Mongolian historian Lhamjab A. Borjigin was tried in secret for charges of ‘separatism’ and ‘sabotaging national unity’. Borjigin maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings and a verdict has yet to be announced. Another writer, publishing online under the penname […]

March 2019

China Goes to War with Academia

In the first quarter of 2019, the Chinese government’s growing international assertiveness and influence have escalated tensions with the international academic community. On 22 January, China lashed out at 143 foreign academics and former diplomats who signed an open letter to President Xi Jinping demanding the release of two Canadians detained for ‘endangering China’s national […]

March 2019

Factory Explosions in Jiangsu

In March 2019, workplace safety issues came under the spotlight again in China. On 21 March, a deadly explosion occured at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Company, in Yancheng city, Jiangsu province, killing at least 64 people and injuring ten times as many. The explosion, as powerful as a 2.2 magnitude tremor, flattened the factory, destroyed […]

February 2019

Forced Labour in Xinjiang and Uyghur #MeToo

The year 2019 has not brought any positive changes to the state of affairs in Xinjiang. Official state policy has repeatedly asserted that Muslim ‘reeducation camps’ assume a crucial role in China’s fight against terrorism and separatism in Xinjiang, as the Chinese authorities claim to have arrested over 13,000 ‘terrorists’. However, there is now mounting […]

February 2019

Crackdown on Labour Activism Intensifies

In the first quarter of 2019, many of the Maoist students and activists at the centre of the Jasic struggle—including Yue Xin, Shen Mengyu, Gu Jiayue, Zheng Yongming, and He Pengchao—appeared in forced confession videos screened privately to student activists at Peking University. According to students who secretly recorded the audio, in the taped confessions […]

February 2019

China to Address Gender-based Discrimination

The first quarter of 2019 has seen important steps taken to strengthen protection of women’s rights.In December 2018, the ACWF lobbied the SPC to take into account the interests of women in judicial interpretation, develop a gender equality assessment mechanism, promote the legalisation of women’s rights protection in cooperation with the ACWF itself, and protect […]

January 2019

Human Rights on Trial

The first quarter of 2019 has seen the continued repression of human rights advocates, lawyers, and civil society groups. On 14 January, blogger Huang Qi was tried for leaking state secrets. In a sad turn of events, his mother was detained after approaching foreign embassies in Beijing for assistance in obtaining the release of her […]

December 2018

As One High-level Official Disappears, Nobody is Safe from Repression

In the last quarter of 2018, China’s human rights record continued to deteriorate. October began with the disappearance of a high-level official—Meng Hongwei, then President of Interpol and Deputy Minister of Public Security in China, who was reported missing after travelling from France to China on 5 October. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has […]

November 2018

Jasic Crackdown Widens

In early November 2018, more than a dozen students and recent college graduates who had expressed their support for the Jasic mobilisation were detained. Staff of a social work organisation in Shenzhen and two employees of a district-level ACFTU branch in the same city were also caught up in the crackdown. Those who were detained […]

November 2018

Hong Kong under Siege

The political situation in Hong Kong is increasingly tense, as the former British colony’s special status under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement appears to be faltering. The inauguration of a high speed railway connecting Hong Kong to Guangzhou on 23 September and a new bridge that links Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau on […]

November 2018

Fare Thee Well Private Economy?

As China celebrates the 40th anniversary of the launch of economic reforms in December 2018, concerns grow about the Chinese government’s commitment to further liberalise the economy. Despite their economic contributions over the last four decades, private firms in China find themselves embroiled in an ever-challenging situation, plagued by slower economic growth, tighter credit lines, […]

November 2018

China’s Human Rights Record in Xinjiang under International Scrutiny

In November 2018, China’s human rights record was scrutinised by the United Nations Human Rights Council. In a process known as a ‘universal periodic review’ (UPR), the nation in question must demonstrate its ability to follow previous United Nations (UN) recommendations and answer questions posed by other states, NGOs, and other institutions. On 6 November, […]

October 2018

The Chinese Trade Union Holds Its National Congress

Between 22 and 26 October 2018, the AllChina Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) convened its Seventeenth National Congress. In delivering his Report on the Economic Situation in front of the convened unionists, Premier Li Keqiang re-emphasised the role of the ACFTU as a ‘transmission belt’ between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese workers. Politburo […]

August 2018

#MeToo Lands in China

In spite of almost immediate censorship from the Chinese government, China’s nascent #MeToo movement has refused to be stifled. During the summer of 2018, the movement—predominantly led by student activists—resonated across university campuses in China. Online, the #MeToo hashtag has since collected over 4.5 million hits on Weibo, with activists sidestepping online censors through the […]

August 2018

Xinjiang Garners Global Attention

Since October 2017, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been marked by intensified surveillance of Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority. According to scholar Rian Thum, an ‘entire culture is being criminalised’, as reports have emerged that up to one million Uyghurs have been detained in political reeducation camps. Prominent Uyghur figures, such as Professor Rahile […]

July 2018

Jasic Strike Paves the Way for Yet Another Crackdown on Labour NGOs

On 24 July, a group of workers at Shenzhen Jasic Technology, were beaten up by security guards and arrested by police while protesting against their illegal dismissal. Back in May they had reported the company to the local authorities for illegally manipulating work schedules, using a punitive system of fines, underpaying social insurance and housing […]

July 2018

Vaccine Scandal Rocks China

Consumer scandals continue to engulf China. News broke out in late July that Changsheng Biotechnology Co. and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co. had respectively manufactured more than 250,000 and 400,000 substandard infant vaccines, an unknown number of which may have been administered to Chinese toddlers. This revelation sparked outrage across Chinese society. Social media […]

July 2018

One Step Forward, Ten Steps Back for Human Rights

This past quarter has seen the continued repression of human rights in China. However, there was some welcome news on 9 July, when Liu Xia—widow of late Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo—was released from effective house arrest and moved to Germany. Sadly, 9 July also marked the third anniversary of the ‘709’ crackdown, […]

June 2018

Foreign Companies Bow to Pressure from Beijing

In January, the Chinese authorities blocked the website and app of the Marriott hotel group for one week after the company listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate ‘countries’ in an online customer survey. To make things worse, a Marriott employee used a corporate Twitter account to ‘like’ a tweet in which a […]

June 2018

Surveillance and Repression of Uyghurs Intensifies in Xinjiang and Globally

In recent months the human rights situation in the restive northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been deteriorating rapidly. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, the Muslim ethnic minority that constitutes the majority of the local population, have been sent to re-education camps. Stories from the camps paint a stark picture, with detainees being held indefinitely […]

June 2018

Gui Minhai Seized in the Presence of Swedish Diplomats

On 20 January, Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who was abducted from Thailand in 2015 and was just granted limited freedom in October 2017, was again detained by authorities while in the presence of Swedish diplomats. Gui was traveling from Shanghai to Beijing with two Swedish consular officials to seek medical attention. However, at Jinan station, […]

June 2018

Unrelenting Repression of Both Lawyers and Activists

The first quarter of 2018 has seen continuous and unrelenting repression of both lawyers and activists in China. Four days into the new year, 32-year-old Tibetan activist Tashi Wangchuk went on trial for ‘inciting separatism’, a crime that carries a punishment of up to 15 years in jail. He was detained in January 2016, after […]

June 2018

Members of Student Reading Group Detained and Harassed

In November 2017, the police detained two recent graduates and four students who were attending a reading group at the Guangdong University of Technology in Guangzhou. The self-described Maoist reading group organised critical discussions of social and political issues. While most of the members were soon released, the organisers Zhang Yunfan—a recent graduate of Peking […]

June 2018

Strikes in Non-manufacturing Sectors Gain Traction

Between late March and June, a number of strikes and protests in China’s non-manufacturing sectors gained international attention. In late March more than 2,000 sanitation workers in Shanghai went on a six-day strike to protest against waste management companies’ cuts to their income. After the local government had increased the minimum wage, these sanitation workers—who […]

June 2018

Shenzhen Urban Redevelopment Pushes Migrants to the Fringes

On 11 June, Foxconn employees posted an open letter at the company’s facility in Longhua, Shenzhen, to express their discontent with the redevelopment of surrounding urban villages. They alleged that this redevelopment would double or even triple rents, making housing completely unaffordable for them. Residents of Shenzhen’s urban villages—mostly migrant workers—have recently been notified by […]

June 2018

Shenzhen Urban Redevelopment Pushes Migrants to the Fringes

On 11 June, Foxconn employees posted an open letter at the company’s facility in Longhua, Shenzhen, to express their discontent with the redevelopment of surrounding urban villages. They alleged that this redevelopment would double or even triple rents, making housing completely unaffordable for them. Residents of Shenzhen’s urban villages—mostly migrant workers—have recently been notified by […]

May 2018

Liu Xia Is Released, but Repression Continues Unabated

Repression of human rights practitioners continues unabated in China. In the past few months, foreign media have widely reported on the situation of Liu Xia, the widow of late Chinese dissident and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. Without having been formally accused of any offence, Liu was placed under house arrest in October 2010. While earlier […]

May 2018

Revolutionary Martyrs ‘Slandered’

Rage Comic, a popular online cartoon and video platform, has fallen prey to China’s recently passed Law on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs. Taking effect on 1 May 2018, the Law requires all of Chinese society to respect heroes and martyrs of the Communist Party, and subjects anyone who fails to do so to […]

April 2018

New Statistical Report on Migrant Workers Released

In April, the National Bureau of Statistics released its latest annual report on Chinese migrant workers. According to this document, in 2017 China had a total of 286.52 million migrant workers, an increase of 4.81 million or 1.7 percent from the previous year. At the same time the migrant population is clearly aging: for the […]

April 2018

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, […]

April 2018

Gender Issues in the Spotlight

The second quarter of 2018 has brought renewed scrutiny of gender issues in China. Chinese women still face perilous conditions in society and the workplace, often falling victim to sexual harassment and discrimination of various kinds. The #MeToo campaign that swept Peking University (PKU) in April this year well exemplifies female vulnerability to sexual harassment […]

March 2018

Constitutional Amendment Approved by the National People’s Congress

On 11 March, during the annual Two Sessions (lianghui), the National People’s Congress passed a number of historical constitutional amendments with 1,958 votes in favour, two against, and three abstentions. Among the 21 changes to the Constitution, the most controversial revision was the removal of term limits for the posts of President and Vice-President, which […]

December 2017

Human Rights with Chinese Characteristics?

On 7 December 2017, about three hundred participants from over fifty mostly developing countries gathered in Beijing for the ‘South-South Human Rights Forum’. In his opening address, President Xi Jinping reiterated that ‘human rights must and can only be promoted in light of specific national conditions and people’s needs.’ The initiative took place after another […]

December 2017

New Implementation Rules for the Counter-espionage Law Released

On 6 December, the State Council released the Implementation Rules for the Counterespionage Law that had come into force earlier in November 2014. The new Rules significantly enhance the powers of the State Security, which had already gained significant clout under the original legislation. In particular, Article 8 grants the State Security the power to […]

November 2017

Foxconn Entangled in Another Scandal

On 21 November, Foxconn came once again under the spotlight following a media investigation into its forced use of seasonal student interns. The Financial Times uncovered that three thousand high school students from the local Urban Rail Transit School had been forced to work eleven-hour shifts at the company’s plant in Zhengzhou, Henan province, to […]

November 2017

Beijing Evicts ‘Low-end Population’

On 18 November, a fire broke out in the basement of an apartment block inhabited mostly by migrant workers in Beijing’s Daxing district, killing nineteen and injuring eight. Around four hundred people lived in cramped conditions in the two-story structure. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the city authorities launched a fortyday campaign to inspect […]

October 2017

China Continues to Extend Influence over Foreign Publishing and Universities

In the months following the uproar caused by the Cambridge University Press censorship fiasco, the Chinese government continued to exert pressure on foreign publishers operating in the country. In late October, it was revealed that Springer Nature, one of the largest commercial academic publishers in the world, had capitulated to the Chinese censors, blocking access […]

October 2017

Chinese Communist Party Holds Nineteenth National Congress

Between 18 and 24 October, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) held its Nineteenth National Congress. In his three-hour-long Report, General Secretary Xi Jinping heralded the dawn of a new era for socialism with Chinese characteristics, an age in which the contradiction between ‘unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s evergrowing needs for a better life’ […]

October 2017

The Good Samaritan Law Comes into Effect

On 1 October, the General Rules of Civil Law—a collection of general principles of Civil Law—came into effect. Article 184 is generally referred to as the ‘Good Samaritan Law’, stating that those who attempt to aid others in emergency situations will not be liable under any circumstances. This clause aims at solving the dilemma of […]

September 2017

Maternal Leave Extended in Thirty Provinces

Since the amended Population and Family Planning Law in January 2016 universally allowed married couples to have a second child, in September 2017 thirty provinces and regions required employers to extend paid maternity leave. In these areas, on top of the nationally mandated ninety-eight days, female employees are now entitled to an additional leave of […]

August 2017

Beijing Attempts to Censor Foreign Academic Publications

In mid-August, Cambridge University Press (CUP) conceded that it had acted on a request from Chinese authorities to block 315 articles from the Chinese website of The China Quarterly, one of the most prestigious and long-running international China Studies journals. CUP’s decision prompted outrage in the academic community and beyond. After a few days of […]

July 2017

Continuing Repression of Human Rights Lawyers and Activists

During the summer, the Chinese government continued its repression of human rights activists and lawyers. During a conference at the National Judges College in Beijing at the end of August, Minister of Justice Zhang Jun called on lawyers to refrain from engaging in protests, criticising judges and courts, and speaking or acting for personal gain […]

July 2017

Village in Beijing Charges Migrant Workers

In July, the rural village of Qiuxian in Beijing’s Daxing district announced plans to start charging migrant residents 2,000 yuan (about 295 USD) per month. The document released by the village leadership stated that the fees collected would be used to pay for public sanitation, tap water, public security, and electricity, but also made it […]

July 2017

University Apologises for Forced Internships

In July, Shenyang Urban Construction University offered a public apology to a second year student pressured by the university into a three-month internship at a Foxconn factory in Yantai, Shandong province. The university had told her that, had she refused to comply, she would not have been able to graduate. To deal with rising labour […]

July 2017

Liu Xiaobo Passes Away and Liu Xia Goes Missing

On 13 July, the activist and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo passed away at the age of sixty-one in the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang. Much to the anger of his friends and supporters, his ashes were buried at sea, off the coast of Dalian. Liu had been imprisoned since 2009 for ‘inciting […]

May 2017

Labour Activists Detained While Investigating Ivanka Trump’s Manufacturer

In late May, Hua Haifeng, Su Heng, and Li Zhao—three labour activists working for the New York-based advocacy group China Labor Watch (CLW)—were detained by the police in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province, while investigating labour conditions at factories making designer shoes for global brands. In particular, they were inspecting a supplier of Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand. […]

May 2017

Li Heping Is Sentenced, Lee Ming-cheh and Lu Yuyu Face Trial

At the end of April, the ordeal of Li Heping, a prominent lawyer who was caught up in the ‘709 crackdown’ against the weiquan community that took place in July 2015, came to an end. After being detained for almost two years, Li, who is well known to the international community for his overt rights […]

April 2017

Fan Yusu Highlights Plight of Domestic Workers

In late April, Fan Yusu, a forty-four-year-old female migrant worker from Hubei province, was propelled to literary stardom when her essay entitled ‘I am Fan Yusu’ went viral. Fan’s writing recounted a life marked by patriarchy, domestic abuse, and raising children singlehandedly. She detailed her feelings of isolation, and the challenges she faced living as […]

April 2017

National Bureau of Statistics Releases Annual Report on Migrant Workers

At the end of April, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released its latest annual report on Chinese migrant workers. According to the NBS, in 2016 there were 281,710,000 migrants in China—1.5 percent more than the previous year. Chinese workers appeared to be increasingly reluctant to migrate far away from their hometowns. In 2016, 112,370,000 […]

April 2017

Salaries of Executives in State- Owned Enterprises Linked to Party-Building Effort

On 17 April, Premier Li Keqiang told a meeting of top state-owned enterprise (SOE) executives at the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission in Beijing that the government was reconsidering a 2015 policy capping their pay, and promised more competitive rates tied to performance. According to a Xinhua report, executives’ pay and other rewards or […]

April 2017

Beijing Offers Rewards for Reporting Spies

On 10 April, the Beijing State Security Bureau released a set of Measures on Rewards for Citizens Reporting Leads on Espionage Conduct. These regulations promised informants who reported on spies rewards ranging between 10,000 and 500,000 yuan, depending on the relevance and usefulness of the information provided. The new regulations were accompanied by the online […]

April 2017

Amnesty International Releases Report on Death Penalty in China

In April, Amnesty released a report on the death penalty in China entitled ‘China’s Deadly Secrets’. In spite of the near absolute secrecy over the Chinese death penalty system, Amnesty estimated that in 2016 China carried out more executions than all other countries combined. The Report also objected to the unverifiable claims by the Chinese […]

March 2017

Chinese-born Australian Scholar Prevented from Leaving China

Over the weekend of 25 March, Feng Chongyi, a Chinese-born professor who has been teaching for over a decade at the University of Technology Sydney, was stopped at immigration checkpoints in Guangzhou while he was attempting to board a flight back to Australia. For a week, he was prevented from leaving China and remained in […]

March 2017

Undocumented Chinese Workers Protest in Saipan

On 22 March, a Chinese construction worker died from a fall at the Imperial Pacific Casino construction site in the American Pacific island of Saipan. Soon after, Federal  Bureau of Investigation agents raided the construction site and discovered hundreds of undocumented Chinese construction workers employed by a company named Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction and Decoration. […]

March 2017

Grisly Murder Brings Back Haunting Memories

In March, the Chinese media reported that in December 2016 a court in Beijing handed a suspended death sentence to two migrant workers from a village in Sichuan province, while three others were given jail terms ranging from fifteen years to life imprisonment for the premeditated murder of a colleague in August 2014. They had […]

March 2017

Talks about Migrant Workers at the Two Sessions

In early March, the annual ‘Two Sessions’ of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) convened in Beijing. On 5 March, Prime Minister Li Keqiang addressed the NPC. In his speech he reiterated once again the determination of the government to tackle the issue of wage arrears besetting migrant […]

March 2017

Supreme People’s Court Boasts about Arrest of Lawyer

During the ‘Two Sessions’, Zhou Qiang—the President of the Supreme People’s Court— presented his annual report about developments in the work of the courts over the past year and plans for the year to come. In the very first section of the speech—entitled ‘ensuring state security, punishing crime, and protecting human rights’—Zhou Qiang singled out […]

January 2017

Further Job Cuts in the Coal and Steel Industry Announced

China’s annual economic growth in 2016 reached the expected target of 6.7 percent, with the creation of more than thirteen million new jobs in cities and towns. Still, at the beginning of 2017 the employment prospects remained worrying, as China continued to rein in its overcapacity in heavy industries such as steel and coal. In […]

January 2017

Foreign NGOs Law Enforced

On 1 January, the controversial Law on the Management of Foreign NGOs’ Activities within Mainland China came into force. To clarify matters in the midst of legal and procedural uncertainty—the list of agencies allowed to supervise foreign organisations and the areas these organisations can work in was only released at the end of December—in early […]

November 2016

Strikes at Multinational Companies in China

The last quarter of 2016 witnessed a series of strikes among the employees of several multinational companies in China over ownership changes. First, on 8 November, dozens of employees went on strike at a bottling plant owned by Danone in Guangzhou that had just been sold to a local company after learning that the French […]

November 2016

Meng Han Sentenced

On 3 November, Meng Han, the last of the labour activists detained in the crackdown of December 2015, was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-one months in jail by the Panyu district court in Guangzhou. While detained, Meng Han was denied access to his lawyer, and his parents were repeatedly harassed in their apartment by […]

October 2016

Parents of Left-Behind Children Face Prosecution

According to an official survey on the migrant population in China in 2016 released in mid-October by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, around sixty-one million children—more than a third of whom are younger than seventeen—currently live in the Chinese countryside without the daily care of their parents, who have migrated to other areas […]

October 2016

Tougher Rules for Ride-Hailing Businesses in China

In October, some of China’s largest cities—including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Tianjin, and Hangzhou—rolled out new regulations on internet-based ride-hailing businesses. China has thus become the first country in the world to create a formal legal framework for the sector. The regulations limit the pool of drivers and vehicles, citing concerns about traffic and […]

October 2016

Xi Stresses Party Leadership over State-Owned Enterprises

On 11 October at a high-level national meeting Xi Jinping reaffirmed the centrality of Party leadership over China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs). According to the official Xinhua News Agency, Xi emphasised that under a stronger leadership from the Party—‘the root and soul’ of SOEs in his words—SOEs should serve to implement the decisions of the Party, […]

September 2016

Mine Blasts Kill Dozens

On 27 September, a gas explosion in a coal mine in Ningxia took the lives of twenty miners. Similar explosions killed thirty-three miners in the municipality of Chongqing on 31 October, twenty-one miners in Heilongjiang province on 29 November, and thirty-two miners in Inner Mongolia on 3 December. More recently, on 5 December a gas […]

September 2016

Panyu Labour Activists Sentenced, Lu Yuyu Beaten in Jail

On 26 September, the Panyu district court in Guangzhou held separate hearings for labour activists Zeng Feiyang, Zhu Xiaomei, and Tang Huanxing. Zeng was sentenced to three years imprisonment, suspended for four years, for ‘gathering a crowd to disturb social order’, while Zhu and Tang received prison sentences of eighteen months, suspended for two years, […]

September 2016

Wukan Sieged and Conquered

On 19 June, hundreds of residents in the southern fishing village of Wukan, Guangdong province, returned to the street five years after protests had flared up against official corruption and land grabbing. The protesting villagers demanded the release of Village Chief Lin Zuluan, who had been detained on 18 June for his persistent advocacy for […]

August 2016

Flurry of Legislative Activity on Civil Society Organisations

After the passing of the Charity Law and the highly controversial Foreign NGOs Law earlier this year, over the summer, the Chinese authorities have continued to move forward with the revision of legislation related to the management of civil society organisations. Since June, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has issued draft registration and management regulations […]

July 2016

Mounting Concerns about the Impact of the Economic Slowdown on Wage Growth

In mid-July, China’s National Bureau of Statistics issued a report warning that sustaining economic and wage growth will be a challenge in the second half of 2016. In particular, the report cited industrial overcapacity in the state-owned coal and steel sectors, and declining agricultural prices as contributing factors. In the first half of this year, […]

July 2016

Walmart Workers on Strike

In July, the struggle of Walmart workers in China entered a new phase. Early that month, Walmart workers at retail stores in Nanchang, Chengdu, and Harbin staged wildcat strikes against the company’s new working hour system. Dozens of workers from each of these stores participated in the strikes, holding signs, and chanting slogans inside the […]

June 2016

Second Anniversary of Zhou Jianrong’s Suicide

On 17 July, Chinese labour activists commemorated the second anniversary of the death of Zhou Jianrong, a forty-nine-year-old worker at a Hong Kong-owned footwear factory in Shenzhen. Two years ago, Zhou committed suicide by jumping out of her dormitory after being fired for her role in organising a strike. Since May 2014, Zhou and her […]

June 2016

Social Media Archivists of Protests in China Detained

On 16 June, Lu Yuyu and his partner Li Tingyu, chroniclers of protests in China on their website Wickedonna, were detained in the southwestern city of Dali, Yunnan province, where they lived. They are accused of ‘picking quarrels and provoking troubles’, a charge that is often used to silence activists in China. Since 2012, the […]

May 2016

Mine Murders Uncovered in Mongolia

On 31 May, prosecutors in Inner Mongolia announced the indictment of seventy-four people for the killing of seventeen mine workers. The killings were for the purpose of faking mining accidents in order to blackmail mine owners running unlicensed operations into paying compensation. The compensation payments ranged from five to eight hundred thousand yuan. In a […]

May 2016

Walmart Employees Campaigning against Flexible Scheduling

On 16 May, Walmart announced a new flexible scheduling system—the so-called ‘comprehensive working hour calculation system’—to be implemented across its retail stores in China, and asked its employees to sign a written declaration in which they agree to the new system. In contrast to the current standard eight-hour working day for fulltime workers, with the […]

April 2016

New Foreign NGOs Law Passed

On 28 April, the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body, passed the long-awaited Law on the Management of Foreign NGOs’ Activities within Mainland China. The new Law, which comes into effect on 1 January 2017, fills a grey area in the Chinese legal system, stipulating that any foreign group wishing to operate in China must […]

April 2016

Henan Local Regulations Forbid Workers from Resorting to Extreme Measures to Pursue Back Pay

On 22 April, the local authorities of Zhengzhou, Henan province, released a set of ‘Draft Regulations on the Construction Market’, giving the public one month to provide feedback. The Regulations, which aimed at ‘standardising the management of the construction market, protecting the order of the construction market, and guaranteeing the legal rights and interests of […]

April 2016

He Xiaobo Released on Bail, Zeng Feiyang’s Mother Attempts to Sue Official Media

On 8 April, He Xiaobo, one of the labour activists taken into custody in early December 2015, was released on bail after being charged with embezzlement. A forty-two-year-old former migrant worker, He is the director of the Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Centre, an NGO based in Foshan, Guangdong, that specialises in providing legal aid to […]

April 2016

Mass Layoffs Announced in the Coal and Steel Industries

According to Yin Weimin, Minister for Human Resources and Social Security, 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel industries will be laid off as part of the government’s efforts to curb industrial overcapacity and pollution. However, other sources say as many as five to six million workers could lose their jobs. The so-called ‘zombie’ […]

March 2016

Charity Law Passed by the National People’s Congress

On 16 March, the National People’s Congress passed a landmark Charity Law. While the new Law will make it easier for Chinese nonprofit groups to obtain a legal registration and raise funding, it also includes strict regulations to prevent fraud and impose tighter supervision. The legislators introduce tax incentives to encourage enterprises and wealthy people […]

March 2016

Labour Contract Law under Attack for Harming Flexibility

On 7 March, during the National People’s Congress, Minister of Finance Lou Jiwei criticised China’s Labour Contract Law for harming the flexibility of the labour market, constraining productivity, and harming workers by reducing job opportunities. Lou stated that the Labour Contract Law restricts the ability of companies to fire their employees and is thus discriminatory […]

February 2016

Chinese Blogger Demands Answers over Funding to Help ‘Left-Behind Children’

Zhou Xiaoyun, a well-known blogger, took legal action against the governments of Bijie city and Guizhou province, demanding that they reveal what happened to a one hundred and eighty million yuan provincial fund established to help ‘left-behind children’ (liushou ertong), a term that generally refers to children currently living in the Chinese countryside without the […]

January 2016

Grassroots Worker Elected to Top Trade Union Leadership

Ju Xiaolin, a technician and former migrant worker from Shaanxi province, was appointed Vice Chair of the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). Ju is the first migrant worker to hold such a high post within the ACFTU. A technician with only a high school diploma, Ju has worked for China CREC Railway Electrification […]

January 2016

Ningxia Officials Address Migrant Workers’ Back Pay After Bus Attack

On 5 January, Ma Yongping, a migrant construction worker angry about unpaid wages, set a public bus on fire, killing seventeen people in Yinchuan, the capital of the northwestern province of Ningxia. Ma had complained on social media about non-payment of his wages, but his grievances had been ignored by local officials. A government report […]

January 2016

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 […]

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