With all the media focusing their attention on Chen Guangcheng, Bo Xilai etc, there has been another peak of workers taking action against the harsh working and living conditions in China.
Since the end of Spring Festival, which generally makes China's industrial towns very quiet as everyone goes back to their home town for a couple of weeks, there has been a new resurgence in worker's struggles.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Luddites, a social movement of textile artisans from around Northern England and the Midlands. Here is just a bit of information about the Luddites and some of the events that have been happening and ones planned for the future, commemorating them.
The main areas of activity of the Luddites were in Nottinghamshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire and Lancashire between 1811-1816. Their protests resulted from their trade and communities being threatened by a combination of machines and other practices that had been unilaterally imposed by the aggressive new class of manufacturers that drove the Industrial Revolution.
It kicked off in the Wansheng district of Chongqing this week, with many of its residents getting out on the streets to oppose the merger with Qijiang county, afraid that their living standards and economic conditions will deteriorate after the merge.
The protests of around 10,000 people started on Tuesday of this week, which escalated into confrontations with riot police and widespread looting. The exact details of how the escalation happened aren't too clear to me, but obviously a lot of people are pissed off.
I've been a bit out of touch politically recently as I've got a load of things to sort out, so I thought I'd do more of a cultural post and introduce some Chinese music to the libcom readers. This won't be very representative of the average Chinese worker's musical choice, but just stuff that I've found interesting.
I've never heard any of this music by frequenting Chinese clubs and bars. In fact a lot of these places would rather play Westlife, Lady Gaga or some K-pop. That said, the nightlife in China is worth the experience whether you like the music or not.
If anyone has any other Chinese artists that they like, please feel free to suggest them
I suppose this is just a reflection on the importance of communal meeting places that aren't always appreciated in the way they should be as well as the break up and isolation of individuals in communities.
Over the last few decades in the UK, it seems there has been an effort to make Thatcher's famous words true. 'There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.'
This is just a heads up to anyone in the UK, to watch a couple of TV programmes about China being shown tonight (12/03/12). If you can't watch them, then they should be available online tomorrow.
The first programme, is the first of a 2-part series on Channel 4 at 8pm, titled 'China: Triumph and Turmoil'.
China Blue is a documentary that follows a 17 year old Chinese girl migrating from her home in the Sichuan province to work in a jeans factory in Guangdong. It shows the harsh realities as a factory worker for millions of migrants in China.
The film gives a very detailed insight, what it is like to work in a Chinese factory. The extremely long workday, going for weeks or months without a day to rest, not getting paid (even when you do it's barely enough for the amount of work done), sleeping in cramped conditions, eating crap food and being threatened every step of the way by a complete bell-end of a boss.
When I think of petitioning in the UK, I think of walking around some town centre on a Saturday, hearing someone on a megaphone ranting how they are 'against' something (war, capitalism, cuts etc), then turning towards the noise and seeing a bunch of Trots standing around a stall trying to sell papers and getting people to sign a petition that goes nowhere. In China though, something as harmless as a petition can see you face years inside one of the 'black jails'.
I'm sure many of you reading from the UK have witnessed the scene I described before and probably ignore it most of the time.
It seems the new parasitic class of Chinese millionaires are not content with merely making millions through exploiting the Chinese working class. Increasing numbers of them are now choosing to spend these millions to pay for the right to kill animals all over the world, spending up to 498,800 yuan (about £49,880) on a single hunting holiday. Both the business owners and top ranking government officials are reveling in this new opportunity to act like complete wankers.
A luxury polar bear hunting holiday in Canada for 14 days (which I've heard includes getting your own arse wiped for you) is the most expensive package hunting holiday available for this Chinese elite. But if you don't fancy that cold weather you can always go to one of the many African, European or Oceanic retreats available through the same tour operator.
Here's a TV clip commenting on the state repression of activists in China, more specifically the case of Zhang Shujie, a supporter of the Hong Kong branch of socialist grouping Committee for a Workers International (CWI).
I wrote a short piece before about political policing in China, which mentioned this case. Zhang Shujie was approached by Chinese police to spy on Hong Kong political activists, who support worker's rights in China.
Another Chinese village, apparently inspired by the Wukan uprising of last year, has been protesting over land grabs, causing the local government officials to flee. Around 5000 villagers of East and West Panhe Villages, Cangnan County, in Zhejiang Province, are now reported to be running the village themselves.
As many people predicted after the Wukan uprising, villagers taking more militant action in opposition to land grabs is happening again according to reports from a few days ago (sorry for taking so long on this, just been busy recently!).
A villager, Lu Yeqin told reporters that:
This is just a personal insight in to the Occupy Central Hong Kong (OCHK) camp. Hopefully it gives a bit more of an idea of what is going on there.
I think the first thing I should say is that I don't have the greatest knowledge of what has been happening in Occupy around the world. I haven't kept up to date with all the goings on around the world but I have a rough idea of what some of the other Occupy camps have been like.
A documentary about the effects the building of the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze river in China has had on the people who lived in the surrounding areas. It a gives a good insight into the transition that China has been making over the last couple of decades to a neo-liberal capitalist state.
A documentary focusing on one family of migrant workers, mainly around Chinese New Year. It reveals the conditions they live and work in, and the strain it has on the family, which comes out the only time they can see each other over the Spring Festival holiday.
Last Train Home is a wonderfully made and very honest documentary from 2009. The family it focuses on seem very uninhibited by the camera's presence, leading them to be very open in the way they talk and act. It just seems to capture something that most documentaries fail to.
Here's a video (and links to a couple of other videos) previewing the new documentary about the Chinese artist and political activist, Ai Weiwei, which is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. I've also added my own thoughts on Ai Weiwei.
I've not had a chance to see the film yet but as soon as it starts circulating on the net, I'll do my best to get hold of it.
I hope to explain a bit more about the land grabs that have been happening in China for a number of years now. This should cover the reasons why it is happening and the effects it has had on the people of China.
I was in Hong Kong recently and somehow ended up having a strange conversation with a couple of Danish guys who worked on the mainland in a job that gave me a different insight in to what is happening in China. I don't need to go into much detail about what they said but just want to concentrate one of many things that they said, which stuck in my head.
A documentary about the history of South Africa v New Zealand international rugby matches and how apartheid affected this.
To give a bit of background to this and a more global perspective, sport played quite a big role in the anti-apartheid movement. In the UK, cricket and rugby tours by South African teams had mass protests directed at them and (as you see the in documentary) this happened in NZ too.
The last year seems to have seen a rise in the Chinese government cracking down on political activists, seemingly in response to the threat of the Arab Spring influencing Chinese citizens. There has also been another increase of this type of activity over the last month, using the holiday season to catch people off guard. This also has to be seen in the context of the government trying to clean up their image by backing off in so called 'mass incidents', but really nothing much seems to of changed.
A couple of stories of recent activity have inspired this blog post. The first one being the story of a Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) activist being forced to flee China with the help of his comrades from Hong Kong where the group is more active (there is a lot more background info if you follow this article).
This is just a reflection in light of the reports that last week there was a protest by 300 Chinese workers in Wuhan, who were employed by electronics giant Foxconn, that threatened to commit suicide over unpaid compensation.
If you want a good report of the incident then ZDNet have put together a good piece on it, which I won't try to compete with but just put my own views on the incident.