2007: Call on Chinese Authorities to Stop Violence Against Migrant Worker Centre

published 30-01-2013 11:35, last modified 29-04-2013 11:02
On 11 October and again on 14 November 2007, a group of unidentified perpetrators attacked the Dagongzhe (DGZ) Migrant Worker Centre in Shenzhen, destroying the premises. On 20 November, staff member Huang Qingnan was seriously injured when he was stabbed by two unidentified men.

Issue

On 11 October and again on 14 November 2007, a group of unidentified perpetrators attacked the Dagongzhe (DGZ) Migrant Worker Centre in Shenzhen, destroying the premises. On 20 November, staff member Huang Qingnan was seriously injured when he was stabbed by two unidentified men.

There is much speculation that the DGZ is being targeted because it provides a free library for migrant workers in Shenzhen, and labour law education, free legal consultations and workshops on China’s new Labour Contract Law that mandates improvement of working conditions.

Actions

On 3 December, a solidarity demonstration took place in Hong Kong and in the same period the DGZ was able to relocate and re-open its doors with the financial and political support of groups from around the world (see: http://chinastudygroup.net/2008/01/shengzhen-dgz-center-huang-qingnan-update/).

The DGZ, in conjunction with labour rights NGO Worker Empowerment (WE), sent its research report on Labour Contract Law, featuring in-depth interviews with Shenzhen workers, to government officials and other stakeholders. This report, however, focused on furniture workers (http://www.workerempowerment.org/en/updates/12).

The report was sent to governmental bodies and other interested parties together with the response to the Labour Contract Law Implementation Ordinance’s open consultation. It was also sent to labour-oriented organisations in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Later in December, the CCC initiated a letter-writing campaign to pressure local and regional government officials to initiate an immediate investigation into these incidents and provide Huang Qingnan with appropriate medical treatment and rehabilitation and help the DGZ resume its work in conjunction with national policies that address labour relations and protection of civil groups. Furthermore, it was learned that DGZ founder, Huang Qingnan, had partially recovered from his injuries and was able to resume his work.

Five suspects, including local factory owner Zhong Wei Qi, were detained in January 2008. But a 24 December 2008 hearing at Longgang District Peoples Court was postponed until 16 January 2009 because the court was too small to accommodate some 60 DGZ national and international supporters and observers.

In conjunction with the pending trial, the CCC reiterated its earlier demands for justice. The CCC further demanded that Chinese government officials show their commitment to protecting civil society organisations and enforcing the new labour law.

Serious doubts regarding the fairness of the trial arose shortly after the verdict was handed down on 16 January. The CCC issued a statement criticising the trial including the delays and the fact that the hearing was announced only three days prior to the trial. Court officers also performed a body search of Huang Qingnan and his lawyer, which is a violation of the Highest People’s Court regulation on security inspections, and commenced with the trial before Qingnan was allowed to enter the courtroom.

Further criticism included the government’s inadequate investigations of the backgrounds and motives of the defendants, one of whom owns several local factories, which went unmentioned in the trial and could have served as motivation for the crimes. The possibility of a conspiracy involving protection fees by local gangs also went unmentioned.

The court disregarded the Shenzhen City Inspection Office and Police Department’s 2008 assessments that Huang’s injuries were “a 6th degree disability and serious injury”. The court instead accepted a Shenzhen City Judicial Department assessment that Huang Qingnan’s injuries were minimal.

The CCC urged Chinese authorities to heed to international criticism, insisting that the Shenzhen and central governments guarantee that district courts respect national laws, and protect the principles of fair and public trials; investigate the court’s violations of national law with regard to the “instructions from superiors” that denied observers entry and allowed for the bodily search of the plaintiff and his lawyer.

Outcome

The DGZ continues to experience close governmental surveillance, with local police and national security officers stopping by from time to time.

The CCC took Huang Qingnan’s case to retrial in the provincial high court. In November 2010, there were reports that the court had finally finished their annual reports concerning the case with assurances that the trial would begin in February 2011.

The CCC has since then focused on requesting that the Supreme People’s Court order a retrial at the High people's court in Guangdong Province as soon as possible.

In the course of 2012, the Dagongzhe Centre and six other Shenzhen grassroots labour NGOs encountered various crackdowns. For instance, WE’s partner organisation in Shenzhen had its water and electricity cut off for two months before being evicted by its landlord in April 2012 and the centre was forced to relocate in July 2012.

All of these crackdowns violate Chinese labour policies. This bodes a gloomy future for the development of a civil society in Guangdong. It has raised concern among both domestic and foreign media. See the following report: http://www.workerempowerment.org/en/updates/36.