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From bulletin@china-labour.org.hk Tue Jul 2 07:00:08 2002
To: brownh@hartford-hwp.com
From: bulletin@china-labour.org.hk
Subject: China Labour E-Bulletin Issue No. 8 (2002-07-02)
Date: Tue, 02 Jul 2002 10:54:47 GMT

The ACFTU wins a seat in the Workers' Group of the ILO's Governing Body in June 2002

Editorial Note, China Labour Bulletin, Vol.8, 2 July 2002

The Chinese government celebrates a diplomatic victory as its labour arm, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) wins a seat as the deputy member in the Workers' Group of the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Governing Body in June 2002. The election scoop by the ACFTU has been lauded by the Chinese government as recognition by an important international body. The Beijing government have been manoeuvring since the 1989 June 4 massacre to regain seats on international organizations. The negative implications of this diplomatic success at the ILO has sent a chill down the spines of union movements which have been championing the cause of independent and democratic unionism in China.

The acceptance of the government-controlled ACFTU at the ILO is particularly ironic at a time when majority of workers in China feel more vulnerable, unrepresented and disenfranchised than ever before. Over 250 million workers in China are subject to the most flagrant violations of core labour standards under the onslaught of heavy-handed market liberalization and privatization; yet they have no union willing to speak about the injustice and their grievances. They cannot organize representation to negotiate their demands. In the absence of any negotiation channels, an increasing number of workers have decided to take their grievances to the streets and to try to organize independent unions. They are invariably confronted with apathy or even hostility from the ACFTU which has had fallen in line, supporting the suppression of these labour actions by the government and the employers.

This Bulletin features news updates, analysis and testimonies about workers' demonstrations in Daqing, Lanzhou, Fushun and Anshan which took place in this spring. The Daqing demonstrations involving retrenchment protests by 50,000 oil workers have entered their fourth month. The momentous campaign has inspired many other struggles by workers elsewhere who are confronted with similar threats of loss of jobs and livelihoods.

Nevertheless, such peaceful actions voicing legitimate demands have been met with government denials and even repression. Several dozen organizers of Daqing independent union are still reportedly missing. In the wake of such relentless crackdowns, most workers have been forced to suspend their protest actions.

An estimated 60 million workers face unemployment as a result of the economic re-structuring and China's entry to the WTO. As the statute of China's 'Iron Man' model worker, Wang Jinxi, stands in apparent peace and quiet in the Iron Man Square of Daqing, over 80,000 oilfield workers are on the brink of destitution—silenced, and barred from organizing or collective bargaining. Those willing to take a leading role in organizing an independent union to voice the anger of their brothers and sisters are locked up in secret detention centers. As the ACFTU uses its seat at the ILO to defend such suppression of basic labour rights, who will uphold the Chinese workers' right to organize?