Probably the most detailed English background on the December 3 crackdown on Chinese labour activists so far, with updates by the translators.
Photo from Getty via Initium
Translation by “Solidarity with Chinese Workers” from《广东劳工NGO遭连串打压，至少3人被刑拘》(Four Guangdong labour NGOs attacked, at least three directors detained on criminal charges) by Ming Liang (明亮), published on Initium (December 5, 2015), and reposted below. Updates are added in brackets as translators’ notes, based on our knowledge of the situation as of December 9.
For updates and solidarity actions, follow the Facebook page "Free Chinese labour activists now 馬上釋放中國勞權人士". A petition has finally come out here. For more information, see other translations compiled on Libcom under the tag "Solidarity with Chinese Workers."
In early December, police in Guangzhou and Foshan (two cities in the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province) raided four labour NGO offices, taking away at least 15 people. According to other NGOs, these 'persons of interest' had all worked for the Panyu Dagongzu Service Center (番禺打工族服务部) at some point.
On December 4, after losing contact for an entire day, the families of Zeng Feiyang (曾飛洋) and Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅)—both current employees of Panyu Dagongzu—were notified that the two had been detained as criminal suspects for the charge of “gathering crowds to disrupting public order” (聚众扰乱社会秩序罪), and were being held at Guangzhou Number One Detention Centre. Also, He Xiaobo (何曉波), the director of Nanfeiyian Social Service Centre (南飞雁社会工作服务中心), which deals with workplace injuries, is being detained at the Nanhai District Detention Centre in Foshan, as a criminal suspect for the charge of embezzlement (职务侵占罪).
Over the past year, these two organizations, because of their support for workers’ “rights-defense”( 维权), were cut from funding from the state as well as sources outside of mainland China (境外), and their directors were prohibited from leaving mainland China. Now they face the most severe attack yet.
[Translators: “workers’ rights-defense” (工人维权) started out as a politically-correct term, framed as “upholding the law” in contrast with “unreasonable actions” or “raising a ruckus” (闹事). Nowadays, however, authorities tend to treat even “rights defense” as potentially subversive. It can include both individual and collective actions in pursuit of workers’ interests, either through legal channels or direct action, as long as they can be justified in terms of the law, but here the implication seems to be collective direct action, since that is what distinguishes three of the four NGOs targeted in this crackdown from virtually all other NGOs in China.]
This operation by the Guangzhou and Foshan police focused on four major labour NGOs, taking away at least 15 people, including both staff members and visiting workers. At present, three are confirmed to be detained as criminal suspects, six have been released, five can't be reached, and one is under house arrest. [Translators: a fourth criminal detention, of Deng Xiaoming, was confirmed on December 7. Other sources give a total of 21 people missing or known to be taken away between Dec 3 and Dec 6. In addition to the four people confirmed as criminally detained, five remain missing or detained without criminal charges as of Dec 9.]
One labour rights activist said, ‘This time, [this operation] is obviously part of a plan organized from higher levels. From the questions being asked by the police, it can be seen that the authorities want to prove these independent labour NGOs are actually one centrally organized under Zeng Feiyang. It's probable that they would use this as an excuse to increase supervision and control of the field’.
At 11 AM on December 3, the police suddenly came to the office of Haige Labour Service Center (海哥劳工服务部) and took away staff members Bin Xue (賓雪) and He Bing (何兵), along with two visiting workers Huang Dongmei (黃冬梅) and Cheng Nengwen (成能文). The four of them were detained at Fuhua Police Station. After making a police report, they were released at 4 p.m. The director of Haige, Chen Huihai (陈辉海), was not in the office at the time, since he had gone to the district government to fetch some information on industry and commerce. The police then notified him by phone that he should go to the police station. Chen temporarily took refuge in a hotel, where he was interviewed by Radio Free Asia at 2 p.m. Around 4 p.m., his phone shut down, after which he could not be reached. As of press time, Chen's phone can be reached again, and is under house arrest by the police at an unknown location. [Translators: Chen was released from house arrest on December 7, reducing the number of remaining detained or missing persons from ten to nine.]
Interrogation all related to Zeng Feiyang
At the time of the raid, the following eight people could not be reached: Zeng Feiyang, director of Panyu Dangongzu; Luo Hongmei (骆红梅) of Sunflower Women Workers Center (番禺向阳花女工中心); and staff members Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅), Peng Jiayong (彭家勇), Meng Han (孟晗), He Minghui (何明辉), Deng Xiaoming(邓小明), and Zou Jiajun(邹佳俊). They were brought to the police station at Nan Village (南村) of Panyu District, Guangzhou. When some workers asked for more information at the station, they were denied entry. Until 10 p.m., Luo and Zou were finally released after filing a police report. Luo said the police's reason for the investigation was that 'Zeng Feiyang and others are suspected of violating the law “gathering crowds to disrupt public order"' [Translators: PRC Criminal Law #290]. On November 28th, Zeng and others had participated in support for the strike by Fengyuan Street (逢源街) sanitation workers. This was their latest support for a collective labour rights-defense activity. At the time, a person who was questioned by the police declared that all the questions asked were related to Zeng. Zeng had also told others he would probably be arrested in the near future.
On the same of day of the raid, at 3:27 p.m., He Xiaobo (何晓波), the director of Foshan-based Nanfeiyan Social Service Centre decided to leave home for court. The police arrived and took him away. After about 20 minutes, police officers went to He's residence and took away all electronics, work-related receipts and training-related materials. The police at the scene told He's wife that he was suspected of ‘embezzlement’, and must cooperate with the investigation. The officers repeatedly reminded his wife that she must not disclose this information via social media such as WeChat or microblogs. Afterwards, the office at Zumiao was also raided. Since there was no one there during the raid, it was unknown what sort of documents were taken.
While searching for her husband, He's wife discovered that he had been taken away by Foshan's Economic Crime Investigation Team (经济犯罪侦查支队). In August 2015, Foshan's government had made an audit of Nanfeiyan and decided to further audit for the years 2012-2013.
It is also reported that Tang Jian (汤建), a former employee of Panyu Dagongzu, was taken away by the Beijing Police [the same day as the other seizures].
Among all the NGOs related to this case, Panyu Dagongzu was founded [the earliest,] in 1998. It has long [sought to promote] labour rights and labour services. Nanfeiyian Social Service Centre started operating in 2007, officially registering in 2012. It is Foshan's only NGO concerned with rights-defense for workplace injuries. Sunflower Women Workers Center was registered in September 2012. Its original aim was to provide a space for female workers to learn and develop, and to discuss life experiences. Since March 2013, the organization has moved towards supporting women workers’ rights. Chen Huihai has long supported the defense of workers’ rights-defense. His organization, Haige Labour Service Center, was founded in November of 2014 with the aim of promoting collective bargaining.
Four labour NGOs frequently pressured by government
Each of these four NGOs has a different focus, but all deal with labour issues. Besides receiving personal threats like all workers’ rights-defense organizations, these four organizations have been frequently pressured by the government this year.
On January 1, 2015, Guangzhou Municipality officially implemented the ordinance of 'The management of social organizations', which requires NGOs to submit a written report to their registration authority and respective government branch 15 days before they receive funding from any source outside of mainland China. As early as September 2014, the Ministry of State Security notified Panyu Dagongzu that they could not accept funding from China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong labour rights organization. However, this was Dagongzu’s only source of funding. At the same time, Dagongzu’s director Zeng was prohibited from leaving mainland China. Even after being cut from their funding, the organization continued to provide services for fellow workers.
In its early days, Sunflower Women Workers Centre focused on community service for female workers, and that invited applause from [state-affiliated organizations] such as Guangdong Women’s Federation and Guangzhou Communist Youth League Committee. Since March of last year, the centre discovered that many female workers in the community had been sexually harassed or were involved in labour disputes. They thus started to help these workers fight for their rights, attracting pressure from state authorities. During March this year, the water and electricity were cut off from their branch locations, and they were forced to close on April 10. Afterwards, their headquarters was also forced to move, and was audited by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. After confirming their relocation, the Ministry, through phone calls and meetings, expressed their wish that the organization would 'deregister themselves'. On June 23rd, the centre, which refused to comply with the Ministry, received official notice that its registration was cancelled. This suppression is possibly related to the centre's involvement in worker-initiated rights-defense activities, such as the strike at the Qinyi Jewelry Factory (勤艺珠宝厂).
Nanfeiyian Social Service Centre was successfully registered at the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2012, while Guangdong was undergoing a period of state tolerance for NGOs (民间组织). They were even able to receive state funding for their social services. But since the fall of 2014, the organization began to feel their operation space being squeezed. In its annual audit (年审) of June 2015, the Foshan Bureau of Civil Affairs graded the centre as 'basically qualified' (基本合格). If an organization is graded as such for two years consecutively, it will be deregistered. After the audit, the funding for social development, which had already been approved before, was eventually denied. Also, the social service co-operation between Nanfeiyian and Foshan aid-stations, which had been approved to continue through the end of the year, was terminated early, in August. In September, three other branches of Nanfeiyan were either shut down, or the cooperation was terminated. Another was closed due to lack of funding. In November, the director He Xiaobo was prohibited from leaving the country.
Closure of factories, and severity of labour disputes
The government is clearly tightening up their attitude towards labour NGOs, and at the same time as the economy is taking a turn for the worse, factories are closing and labour disputes increasing. According to the estimation of China Labour Bulletin, in October and November, worker strikes and protests in Guangdong reached a record high in October and November. [Translators: http://www.clb.org.hk/en/content/number-strikes-and-worker-protests-china-hits-record-high-november.] In July there were 23, whereas there were 52 in October and another 56. Much of this is caused by factory closures.
Quite a number of mainland labour experts express that they can't comment on this issue. CLB’s director Han Dongfang believes that the ACFTU (All-China Federation of Trade Unions) is behind this attack, which aims to hinder union reform and thus protect the interests of established bureaucrats.
So far, labour organizations in Shenzhen and Dongguan (two other cities with major industrial centres in the Pearl River Delta) have not been affected by this attack. But they are watching closely.
2015-12-05 特约撰稿人 明亮 发自香港
12月3日上午11时左右，警方突然来到广州海哥劳工服务部，带走办公室内办公的工作人员宾雪、何兵，以及两名到访的工友黄冬梅、成能文。四人被羁 押在富华派出所，到下午四点半做完笔录以后被释放。警察到来时，该机构的主任陈辉海因为要去区政府拿一些工商资料而侥幸不在。但警方以电话的方式通知，要 带他走。随后，陈辉海暂时躲避在一间酒店内，并在两点左右接受了自由亚洲电台的电话采访。接近下午四点的时候，陈辉海手机关机，外界和陈辉海失去联系。截 止发稿时，陈辉海电话可以接通，目前正被警方软禁在未知地点。
在警方突袭广州海哥劳工服务部的同时，广东番禺打工族服务部总干事曾飞洋与广州市番禺区向阳花社工服务中心骆红梅，以及工作人员朱小梅、彭家勇、孟 晗、何明辉、邓小明、邹佳俊一并处于失联状态。据悉被带往南村派出所，有工友前往派出所打听消息，但派出所拒绝他们进入。直到当晚十点，骆红梅与邹佳俊录 完笔录后被警方释放。骆红梅表示，派出所给出的调查理由为“曾飞洋等人涉嫌聚众扰乱社会公共秩序罪”。11月28日，曾飞洋等人刚刚结束对逢源街环卫工人 罢工维权行动的支持，这是他们最近的一次支持劳工集体维权活动。在这一事件期间，一位被警方传讯的人士表示，警方问及的内容都涉及曾飞洋。曾飞洋也向身边 人表示，自己可能会很快被抓。
同一天下午三点二十七分，位于佛山的南飞雁负责人何晓波刚刚出门准备前往法院时，被警方带走。大约二十分钟后，公安局前往何晓波住处搜查，带走了家 里所有电子产品以及工作方面的财务票据，以及外出参加培训的资料。现场的警官对何晓波的妻子表示，何晓波涉嫌财务侵占罪，现在是协助调查。该警官同时反复 提醒何晓波妻子不能在微信、微博等渠道发布案情信息。之后，南飞雁祖庙办公室也被警方搜查，由于当时办公室并没有人，还不知道被带走了哪些资料。事后，其 妻子在寻找何晓波的过程中得知，何晓波是被佛山经济犯罪侦查支队带走。2015年8月，佛山市民政局对南飞雁进行财务审计，并以项目跨年为由，要求再审查 2012-2013年度的财务审计。
涉案机构之中，广东番禺打工族服务部成立于1998年，长期关注工人权益、劳工服务等工作。南飞雁社会工作服务中心于2007年开始活动，2012 年在民政局正式登记注册，是广东佛山唯一一家劳工工伤维权NGO。番禺区向阳花社工服务中心在2012年9月完成登记注册，其初衷是为女工提供一个学习培 训和生活交流的空间，在13年3月以后，逐渐开始转向女工权益。陈辉海本人长期担任工人维权义工，其机构海哥劳工服务部于2014年11月成立，致力于推 动劳资集体谈判。
2015年1月1日正式实施的广州市《社会组织管理办法》规定，NGO如接受境外资金捐助，需提前至少15日向登记机关及相关部门书面报告。早在 2014年9月，中国国家安全部已通知番禺打工族服务部，不能接受香港劳工权益组织中国劳工通讯的资金，而这是他们当时唯一的资金来源。从去年9月起，主 任曾飞洋也被边控，无法离开大陆。失去基金会支持后，打工族服务部还在继续为劳工提供服务。
向阳花社工服务中心注册成立之初，因为专注女工的社区服务，曾得到广东省妇联、广州市团委等赞赏。从去年3月开始，该机构在社区中发现越来越多女工 遭遇性骚扰和劳资纠纷问题，随后开始提供维权服务，也开始受到主管部门的压力。今年3月，它的分支机构遭遇断水断电，被迫于4月10日正式关闭。随后该中 心总部也被迫搬迁，财务资料受到民政局检查。民政局在确认机构迁出原办公场地后不久，就通过频繁约谈和电话方式，表示希望机构“自己去注销”。6月23 日，拒绝主动注销的向阳花收到了《广州市番禺区民政局行政处罚听证告知书》，拟撤销登记。这一打压，可能与介入勤艺珠宝厂等工人发起的维权活动有关。
南飞雁在2012年广东民间组织管理的开放中，顺利在民政部门登记注册，并能够拿到政府购买服务的经费，承接政府扶持社工机构的资金项目。但从 2014年底开始，该机构逐渐感到活动空间的压缩。到今年6月年审时，佛山市民政局对南飞雁的评定为“基本合格”。如果连续两年评定结果为“基本合格”， 机构将被撤销。年审评定之后，南飞雁本已获得的政府社会组织发展专项扶持资金项目资助，最终未获审批。此外，南飞雁与佛山市救助站的社工服务合作原本到今 年年底到期，也于8月被提前终止。到9月时，南飞雁共有三个服务点分别被关停和终止合作，一个项目经费不足。11月，何晓波突然被限制出境。