onsdag 25. desember 2019

‘Everyone is getting locked up’: As workers grow disgruntled, China strikes at labor activists

When the young labor activist and blogger Chen Weixiang helped street cleaners in southern China campaign for better wages by organizing demonstrations and publicizing their case online in 2014, he succeeded in winning them improved conditions.
When he tried again this month, acting for a different set of laborers, he did not.
Chinese authorities seized the prominent activist last week and punished him with a jail stint of at least two weeks for "provoking quarrels and stirring troubles," according to a person with direct knowledge of his case who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of official reprisal.

The case of the U.S.-educated Chen, who ran a microblog called "Heart Sanitation," illustrates how a brand of nonviolent labor activism that was once tolerated by Chinese authorities is now off-limits in a country facing stiff economic head winds and deepening political insecurity.
"What he was doing would be seen as normal in China, even in the early years of the Xi Jinping administration," said Elaine Hui, a labor scholar at Pennsylvania State University who studied alongside Chen when he obtained a master's degree there in 2016. "Now, there is zero tolerance for dissent."

Chen's penalty was relatively light by China's standards. But he is probably the 140th worker, activist or student to be arrested or detained in the past 18 months, according to data kept by the China Labor Crackdown Concern Group, a coalition of Chinese and foreign activists and academics.
The labor crackdown amounts to one of the largest campaigns to suppress civil society groups in China under Xi, the Chinese leader who has spoken this year about the risks facing the ruling Communist Party as it navigates rising unemployment and the most difficult economic conditions in decades.