Mirage of ‘China Model’: An Excerpt from Update Publication

August 28, 2010

This article, excerpted from a 2007 issue of Update magazine, probes the wretched condition of the Chinese working class and the reality of the SEZ policy, collating material from a variety of sources.

Click here to read issue 13 of Update magazine [PDF, English]

Click here to read issue 14 of Update magazine [PDF, English]

[H]e (steel baron Lakshmi Mittal’s scion Aditya Mittal) recalled his visit to a plant site in China. A party secretary had accorded him the “red-carpet treatment”, even giving Mittal’s car exclusive access to a highway that hadn’t yet been inaugurated. “Then I get to the plant site, but I don’t see any land. I see houses, lots of houses — a village. And I say, ‘Where’s the land?’ And the party secretary says, ‘Right here. In 90 days, everyone will be gone. – www.dnaindia.com/, 03.02.07

…Most of the year, the Shenzen sky is thick with choking smoke, while the crime rate is almost nine-fold higher than Shanghai. The working class earns US$ 80 every month in the sweatshops and the turnover rate is 10 percent – many turn to prostitution after being laid off. Further, real-estate sharks have stockpiled houses which have caused prices to spiral and have created a new generation of people French calls “mortgage slaves”… – Indiatogether

The ruling classes of India are trying to emulate the “spectacular success of ‘CHINA MODEL’ of growth”. On many occasions the business houses like CII, Assocham, FICCI, etc argued to follow the SEZ-success of China. In fact, when the policies of SEZs were incepted in India in 2000, the NDA government led by BJP projected the SEZs of China as role model (Business Line, 07.05.01). The parties like CPIM also pleaded repeatedly to ape the ‘growth story’ of Chinese SEZs. Even after the Nandigram genocide perpetrated to acquire land for an Indonesian SEZ, “Sitaram Yechury” of CPIM “has pushed the Chinese model for such projects (SEZs)” (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/, 20.03.07) But, the ‘growth story’ of Chinese SEZs and ‘industrialisation & ‘urbanisation’ along ‘CHINA MODEL’ had taken a path of harrowing experiences of land-grab at gunpoint, tremendous bloodshed, and huge exploitation of cheap labour reminding the Dickensian age of the nineteenth century of Europe.

In this section two subjects regarding the ‘CHINA MODEL’ will be discussed: a) Labour standard in Chinese SEZs; b) Violent land-grab in China. — UPDATE]

Labour Standards in Chinese SEZs

These workers labor six days per week (seven during peak season), 13 hours per day, for as little as 35 cents per hour. They do not have pensions or Social Security; they do not have unemployment or medical insurance. By the time they reach age 40, they start having difficulty keeping up with the heavy workload. Soon, they are left with nothing. -[http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/, 04.09.05]

We had come to follow up a story about a young woman called Li Chun Mei. Apparently the 19-year-old had collapsed and died last November at the end of a 16-hour shift. Like many of the staff, she often had to work past midnight, especially in the run-up to Christmas. – [BBC, 20.07.02]

At the eleventh party congress of China, it was decided to go along the capitalist path following the ‘open market’ policy. At this juncture of history the concepts of SEZs were advocated to lure foreign direct investment (FDI). Following excerpt briefly narrates this story. — UPDATE

Special Economic Zones in China

(…) Based on the decision adopted at the 11th Communist party meeting in 1978 to implement economic reform and open policy led by Deng, the SEZs were created as an integral part of this policy: four SEZs were set up in 1980, three of them — Shenzhen (near Hong Kong), Zhuhai (near Macao), Shantou (a major home of overseas Chinese) — located in Guangdong Province and one at Xiamen (across Taiwan) in Fujian Province. Fifth SEZ was installed in Hainan Island in 1988 (…). [See the map — UPDATE] These SEZs were all located along the coast which had easy access to sea transport over centuries.

(…) [I]n 1984 that the experiments of the SEZs would be extended to larger areas inside the country and fourteen coastal open port cities would be opened with special investment incentives for foreign joint ventures. Economic and technical zones were installed in these coastal cities with a view to developing emerging businesses and technology-intensive industries. In February 1985, three coastal areas (Pearl River Delta, Southern Fujian Delta, Yangze River Delta) were designated as Open Economic Zones (OEZs) endowed with similar preferential incentives to promote export production and inflow of foreign capital. Shanghai and its surrounding areas were thus incorporated in the open policy program.

(…) The fundamental object of the SEZs and open cities was to invite foreign investment in various industries with preferential measures and incentives such as preferential tax status to foreign investors, lower tariffs, better infrastructure, more flexible labor markets, and less bureaucratic control. (…) [Source: Tatsuyuki Otai, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan, www.iae.univ-poitiers.fr; accessed on 25.01.07]

[These SEZs and open zones are established emulating the Economic Processing Zones (EPZs) developed in the eastern and south-eastern countries of Asia though with a larger volume. It is noted in the above excerpt that these SEZs were set up to attract huge amount of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). It is also mentioned that certain factors were there behind the flow of FDI in these free zones of China. In fact, the history of EPZs in different countries pointed out that the one of the most important magnet of FDI was cheap labour and flexible labour conditions. Above author writes further:

…Major industries in the EPZs were confined to the following two footloose industries in the earlier stage; textile/clothes industry and electronics industry. The products in these industries were low skilled and labor-intensive. The MNCs had invested in the EPZs in many cases to exploit cheap labor and generous incentives offered which were, in the main, the sources of international competitiveness….

The wage increase gradually began to erode their competitive edge which had stemmed from low-cost labor. An impending option for Hong Kong and South Korea or Taiwan, for example, was to relocate existing production based on low-cost labor to countries where cheaper labor were available and nonbinding quotas were imposed. As economic development advanced in these countries, an emphasis had shifted from labor-intensive, low value-added to high-tech, high value-added technology industry in the selection of inward FDI, forcing their industries of comparative disadvantage to relocate in the less developed, lower wage countries/regions including the SEZs …. (Ibid)

In fact, the countries like Mexico (with its notorious maquiladora — zones like EPZs/SEZs), Thailand, etc were offering cheaper labour to draw FDI. But within decades, the labour became costly in these countries in comparison to China. Hence, the foreign capital rushed to China which was ready to provide labour at cheaper rate under flexible labour conditions. Note the following excerpt:

…Employment in the maquiladora industry in 2003 was down nearly 20% from its 2000 peak of 1.4 million…. (One of its) explanation, is that growing numbers of maquiladora producers are shifting their production to China. Among other things, they are in search of even cheaper wages: An assembly-line workers in Guadalajara (of Mexico) earns $2.50 to $3.50 an hour; his counterpart in Guangdong makes 50 cents to 80 cents…. (China & Socialism, by Martin Hart- Landsberg & Paul Burkett, Monthly Review, July-August 2004)

Thus, the cheaper labour and flexible labour conditions are the chief factors in luring FDI to Chinese SEZs. These factors are firmly established by the above authors in following terms:

…The Chinese government implemented a number of policies to attract FDI, including opening up new geographic areas and industries to this investment. As desired by the government, most FDI — approximately 90% between 1986 and 1999 — has so far been in the coastal areas [i.e., in the ‘open zones’]. The initial foreign investment came largely from overseas Chinese; but starting in the early 1990s, US, European and Japanese investors have greatly increased their share…. Of course, US firms are well known to hire low-wage firms on a contract basis to produce goods for exports. (ibid)

In the following discussions the conclusions of the authors will be verified. In fact, the difference of wages in different countries for manufacturing jobs are horrendous. A study reports: “Per hour compensation in manufacturing (in $) — USA: 21.3, Canada: 18, Mexico: 2.1, Philippines: 0.7, China: 0.4 (Beyond cheap labour: lessons for developing countries, McKinsey Quarterly, 2005, No. 1). Hence India has a ‘comparative advantage’ than China in luring FDI on wage-factor (sic). And India is rushing for it.

In this way (i.e. attracting FDI in low wage-jobs and offering flexible labour conditions — that we will observe in the following discussions), China captured big market of the world (both exports and domestic markets). China is regarded now as the “world’s production line” as top 400 of the world’s top 500 enterprises have built plants in China — both in mainland & in SEZs (www. chinadaily.com.cn/, 27.04.04). In this process China became a virtual hunting place of imperialist capital. At present, 50% of the Chinese exports are produced by the “foreign-funded enterprises” (Monthly Review, ibid). Hence, “as a result of this development, China’s economic growth is now becoming increasingly dependent on the export activities of foreign transnational corporations” (ibid). The ruling classes of India (under the ‘innocent’ advice of CPIM) are rushing along this horrible path of growth.

Let us observe now the labour conditions of Chinese SEZs which are projected as engine of so-called growth of China. — UPDATE]

Toy Industry Tinderbox

(…) China’s official workers’ paper commented recently that “many people say the foreign-invested economy is China’s burgeoning new heaven. But sometimes, heaven is only a step away from hell.”
The statement rings especially true for 84 former colleagues of Tao Chun Lan, a 20-year-old woman from Zhongyuan, a poor village in Sichuan province in central China. Last year, Tao and many village friends migrated to Shenzhen, the “Special Economic Zone,” which borders Hong Kong and exemplifies China’s rush to open its doors to foreign business.

Tao and her friends found work in the Zhili Handicrafts factory, making stuffed toys. They earned poverty wages, about $46 a month. On the night of November 19, 1993, an electrical fault sparked a fire that ripped through Zhili’s dual factory-dormitory building. The workers were locked inside — only one of four exits was open. In all, 84 workers were suffocated, burnt or trampled to death. Most of the victims were women, and many were Tao’s friends from Zhongyuan village.

Tao was lucky. She survived, although she crushed both ankles jumping to safety from a second-floor window. Hospitalized for four months, she received no compensation from the company or the local government. “They don’t care if I’m crippled for life,” she told the local press. International toy makers and distributors refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for preventing such industrial disasters. When presented with a suggestion to adopt a toy industry code to prevent future fires like the one at Zhili, Dennis Ting, head of the Hong Kong Toy Council, which represents major investors in China, called the idea “ridiculous,” and fumed, “someone is out of their minds.”

Ting and others are eager to maintain business as usual. The $40 billion per year international toy industry is increasingly centered on China. The country houses the world’s biggest toy manufacturing industry, which continues to expand. The Southeast China province of Guangdong, where Shenzhen and many other special economic zones are located, is the industry’s heartland, where at least one-third of the world’s toys are made. Neighboring Hong Kong is China’s toy export gateway, shipping toys worth $8 billion in 1993, making it the world’s leading toy exporter.

Despite the economic promise of this scenario, toy industry boosters are finding it increasingly difficult to use such statistics to hide the plight of Tao and her fellow Chinese workers. A realistic picture of the Chinese toy industry is emerging — highlighted through profiles of several Asian multinational companies’ Chinese operations — revealing that many of the toys that delight children around the world are the product of rock-bottom wages, horrendous working conditions, appalling health and safety risks and a de facto ban on free labor organizing.

(…) The toy industry’s famous brands — Fisher-Price, Hasbro, Tyco and Mattel from the United States and Europe, Bandai and Tomy from Japan — rarely appear on the name-plates of Chinese factories. These corporate giants rely mainly on original equipment manufacturing agreements with manufacturers, which then have exclusive rights to produce toys according to the specifications set by the brand-name buyers. Some of these local contractors — many of which are also multinationals, with Asia-wide operations — also sell toys under their own brandnames. Offering labor unorganized by free unions (explicitly banned in China) at as little as 12 cents an hour, China has come to dominate major segments of the international toy trade. (…)

Harbour Ring, with major investments in southern China, is typical of such Hong Kong-based companies. Combined, these firms employ at least 120,000 workers across the border. Harbour Ring, which made 1993 profits of $30.1 million, started out with factories in Hong Kong, then shifted north in the early 1980s in search of cheaper labor. A family-run business incorporated in Bermuda — for tax purposes and to avoid uncertainty over Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997 — its subsidiaries and contractors operate six factories in Guangdong, employing 10,000 to 18,000 seasonal production workers. They make 300 toy lines, mainly on contract for brand-name toy companies. (…)

His workers, however, will not be customers. Harbour Ring workers earn on average only $46 to $58 a month, and, as migrants, most send part of this back to their villages, keeping only enough for subsistence needs. (…) Working hours are long, overtime and weekend work are common and job security is low. Most of Harbour Ring’s Chinese workers are unskilled — they get less than half-a-day’s training. In the summer, Harbour Ring works at maximum production and employment levels in order to stock toy store shelves for Christmas. Each winter, it sheds about half its workforce until they need to gear up again the following summer. (…) [by Huge Williamson, http://multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1994/09/ mm0994_10.html; accessed on 10.04.06]

[Even in the high-tech manufacturing SEZs, the stories are no different.]

Cheap products’ human cost

Pan Qing Mei hoists a soldering gun and briskly fastens chips and wires to motherboards streaming past on a conveyor belt. Fumes from the lead solder rise past her face toward a ventilating fan high above the floor of the spotless factory.

Pan, a 23-year-old migrant worker, said the fumes made her lightheaded when she first arrived from a distant farm village three years ago. Now she’s used to them — just as she’s used to the marathon shifts, sometimes 18 hours a day.

Hundreds of thousands of young Chinese like Pan have flocked to the Pearl River Delta to work in electronics factories that assemble computers and other products for the world’s major tech companies. These hard-driving, highly efficient component factories, many of them owned by Taiwanese companies, are essential to the personal computer industry as competition drives down prices.

What has escaped notice is one secret to their success: They take advantage of a workforce willing to work extraordinary amounts of overtime, often in violation of China’s national labor law.

Workers like Pan come from impoverished villages for a few years to live in company dormitories, eat in company cafeterias and routinely work minimum 12-hour shifts, six days a week.

Pan’s base wage of 30 cents an hour is roughly China’s minimum wage. Working at least 130 hours of overtime a month, at up to 50 cents an hour, she earns about $150 a month. Much of that she sends home to support her parents, who are subsistence farmers, and what is left she spends on her room and board, and she saves for medical emergencies.

With its estimated 100 million migrant workers and its notoriety for low wages and lax enforcement of labor and environmental laws, China is fast becoming the world’s premier electronic workshop, analysts say. Contract manufacturers that make components for leading PC companies are moving operations here from Taiwan, Malaysia and Mexico, and bringing their subcontractors with them. (…)
“The problem is that overtime abuse is just as bad in the high-tech industry as it is in the garment industry, and the hazardous-materials issue is even worse,’’ said S. Prakash Sethi, a professor at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business in New York. “It’s false to say workers love overtime. They do it because they cannot afford to live without it.’’ (…)

Most contract manufacturers in China like Wistron, experts say, run their factories on two 12-hour shifts, enabling them to lower costs by hiring fewer workers. That means managers expect Pan and her co-workers to put in at least 72 hours during a six-day workweek. The central government’s law restricts a laborer’s monthly hours including overtime to 249; Pan typically works a minimum of 312 hours a month. (…) [Source: by Karl Shoenberger, 24.11.02; retrieved from www.mindfully. org/WTO/ChinaPC- Success24nov02.htm on 10.04.06]

[Following excerpt is collected from an investigation (including a diary of a worker) carried in industrial zone where TNC giants like McDonalds, Disney, Hesbro, Warner, Paramount, etc are contracting and/or subcontracting their products.]

Merton Company Limited

(…) Workers have to work 70 days before getting the full pay for the first month. (…) Workers needs to pay $5 deposit before entering the factory. They can not get the last month pay and the deposit back if they quit. In order to deal with the inspections by the authorities, the factory signs fake contracts with workers. But the contracts are kept by the factory, but not given to the workers. (…)

Working Hours and Holidays

In the colouring section, the normal working hours are 7:30am-12noon, 16pm, and then 7:30-10:30pm (overtime work), adding up to 12.5 hours a day. Even though they work for 9.5 hours before dinner, but the extra 1.5 hours are not counted as overtime work; only the three-hour night shift is counted as overtime work.

Workers in the painting section have the longest working day: 7-11am; 12noon-17pm, and then 18:30-23:30 (overtime), a total of 14 hours. Again, only the night shift is counted as overtime work. workers have one day off each month if there is no production deadline. Normally, they have to work overtime every night except Sundays. But there is some production deadline, they have to work overtime on Sundays as well and no holidays whatsoever, even on May Day (1999) which is a statutory holiday-not even the National Day on October 1 (1999). Taken as a whole, in the second half of 1999, workers in the colouring department have taken the following rest days: June: none; July: one day off due to electricity failure and repair; August: one day off; September: one day off for the Mid-Autumn Festival in calculating the wages in relations to the piece rate. (…) October: one day off on National Day; November: none; December: none (from October 2 to December 31, workers have to work overtime on two Sundays) And then, one day off on the New Year Day (2000). And 5 days’ holidays during the Chinese New Year in February.

Leave and Punishment

(…) Some workers cannot stand the workload, and can’t wait for the approval — they simply don’t go to work, and pay a fine of Rmb 25 plus having their “bonus” cancelled plus one day’s wages taken off. Moreover, those not working overtime are considered as absent from work, and will be fined Rmb40 on each occasion. In December 1999, one women worker from the spraying department refused to work overtime and was finally counted as absent from work. In January 2000, another worker (Mr. X), also from the spraying department, did the same and received the same treatment. This is sort of the “normal” mode at this factory.

Wages

Wages are paid on a monthly basis, but the wages of the first 40 days are held up as deposits. There is no Provision for resignation at the factory. If the workers find the workload unbearable and quit (or quitting for some other reasons), they cannot get back the 40 days’ wages. There are marked differences in piece-rate wages, ranging from Bmb1, 000 to Rmb300 a month. If the workers do not work enough (below Rmb300 a month), they will be fired. However, management has set a ceiling on the piece-rate wages at Rmb1200 a month. If a worker earn beyond the limit, management simply re
duces the piece rate claiming that the piece rate is too high. (…)

Deductions

Various expenses are deducted from their monthly wages. These include living expenses (Rmb55), water and electricity bills (Rmb26), miscellaneous fees (Rmb24) (nobody has any idea what “miscellaneous’ fees mean, and from March 1999, the fees are scaled up to Rmb30 a month). Even when a worker is absent from work and will not be issued any meal coupon, the living expenses will still be deducted. (…)

Accommodation and Daily Life

Dormitories: There are dormitories, each with 7 floors and 20 rooms on each floor. The rooms measure 20 sq.m in size, housing at least 17 workers in one room, crammed onto 7 steel double-bunkers (starting with 6 double- bunkers but squeezes one more when they recruit more workers). In some rooms, they simply put two workers on the lower bunk.

Shower Rooms: There are 4 shower rooms on each floor, which can accommodate 50 persons.
Toilets: Two squatting-style toilets on each floor, each with 12 fixtures. In winter, they have enough hot water for shower. Normally workers finish their work at 22:30pm but for those who are off shift at 23:30pm or later, they can’t take a shower any more as there is no more hot water. (…)

Management

Workers have to pay a deposit of 40 yuan (Bmb) upon recruitment. They are loosely fined, or even fired, for various “misconduct.” If they are fired can’t take back the deposits, and some are even fined couple of hundred yuan. Actually, workers are hired and fired according to the production season.
The workers sign a contract with the boss, but only the boss has the copy. They don’t even know what is in the contract; they are only asked to put their signature. Some who have read it reveal that the contract mentions nothing about their pay and other protection (of the legal rights entitled to workers); it is all about factory rules and discipline. The workers think that this is just some gesture to get around the local labor department. The labor department is well a ware of what the contract is all about, but they just don’t bother. (…)

Health, Safety and Welfare

There is a shabby clinic. The workers can go there for treatment but the medical expenses are deducted from the their wages. They are not on any medical insurance policy nor pension scheme. (…)

Workers at the spraying department complain among themselves that the fume is too strong, and that they are never explained the safety hazards with paints. They are sure they will have some kind of chronic diseases — there is some kind of abnormal yellowish colour in their urine. Moreover, the factory does not provide any gloves, and their hands are “burned” (corroded) by the thinner. The factory does not provide masks either, and it doesn’t care whether workers wear any masks at all. But during inspection by the labor department or the customer, everyone has to put on one; otherwise they will be fined. (…)

[Source: by Li Qiang, November 2001, www.chinalaborwatch.org/en/web/ article.php?article_id=50008; accessed on 10.04.06]

[Most of these SEZ-workers labouring under sub-human conditions in China are migrant workers coming from the countryside. These migrant workers are mostly ousted from the old communes because of the “decollectivisation of the agricultural production” (Monthly Review, July-August 2004). They have to congregate at the cities, coastal ‘free zones’ & the SEZs in search of work under any conditions. Note the next excerpt.]

Migrant labour: The armies of the night

(…) More than 200 million mingong [migrant labours] are roaming China. At least 25% don’t get paid by their employers, or their lump payment — before the Chinese Lunar New Year — is delayed. According to Zeng Peiyan, a member of China’s State Council, the equivalent of more than $13 billion has not yet been paid to mingong; in some cases debts are more than 10 years old. Sixty percent of mingong have to work more than 10 hours a day. And 97% have no medical benefits whatsoever. Shanghai urban professionals insist that technically, at least for now, no Chinese peasant can dream of having formal employment. You can spot a mingong from miles away. Their work clothes, blue or brown, are shabby and covered in dust; they are thinner than most Chinese; and they are also shorter, which leads to widespread discrimination because of their height. Whatever their perceived shortcomings, they are the unknown, heroic protagonists of China’s spectacular economic miracle. In the big cities there are now more floating mingong than urban workers.

Their armies can be seen in countless construction sites in Shanghai and Beijing, living in shelters more crowded than prison cells, the more skilled among them earning 70 yuan a day for a 12-hour workday, with a 30-minute break, the new arrivals making only 30 yuan a day. They must register with the big city government every two months and have practically no health and education rights. There are more than 3 million in Shanghai alone, erecting at least one office tower a week. If all unregistered mingong are taken into account, Shanghai’s population may be exceeding 20 million by now. In this Beijing winter, late at night, they can be seen working in the streets under freezing temperatures and merciless winds from the Gobi Desert. (…) [Source: by Pepe Escobar, 22.01.05; Asia Times Online]

[These migrant workers are backbone of the China SEZs. Most of them are underpaid, underfed, deunionised and forced to work & live in sub-human conditions.]

Poor working conditions plague Guangdong

(…) [T]he government’s hands were too full trying to administer the migrant rush into Guangdong — with numbers jumping from 5 million registered workers in 1995 to 10 million in 2001 and nearly 20 million last year — to concentrate solely on labor issues.

Only registered workers who have had jobs for at least six months are included in the figures, with another 10 million unregistered workers also estimated to have met the six-month working criteria. A further 10 million could be looking for work, Wang said.

This gives Guangdong by far the largest share of China’s officially estimated 140 million migrant workers. Another around 6 million are in Shanghai and 5 million in Beijing.

Most of the workers in Guangdong are under 35, more than half are women and they largely come from impoverished inland provinces like Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Guangxi and Guizhou. Many are engaged in light industrial manufacturing, including electronics, as well as cheap Chinese textiles like plastics, shoes, clothes, toys and furniture that are mainstays in markets worldwide. (…) [Source: The Taipei Times, 05.02.05; retrieved from www. chinalaborwatch.org/ on 10.04.06]

[More than half of the migrants are women workers who are used to be exploited massively.]

Hope[!] for China’s migrant women workers

(…) [T]hese women migrants face poorer working conditions than their male counterparts. Though statistics show that the migrant labor male-to-female ratio nationwide is 2:1, in the Pearl River delta the ratio is reversed. Job segregation in the delta pushes women into the unskilled, labor-intensive, and lower-paid apparel, footwear, and toy industries. The average monthly salary for a woman migrant worker in Guangdong is RMB300-RMB500 ($37$ 62), according to a 2000 report by the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In contrast, male migrant workers generally earn RMB500 or more a month. Salary levels have stagnated since the early 1990s. Given inflation and increases in the cost of living, salaries have fallen in real terms.

China’s Labor Law guarantees women workers maternity leave and protection for their reproductive health. Yet the country’s vast pool of cheap labor makes it easy for employers to refuse to pay maternity leave or simply to fire women workers when they become pregnant. In many factories, the working conditions and environment are harmful to women’s health, particularly in the footwear and garment factories. The chemical fumes, unbearable heat, and long hours of standing not only affect women’s general physical health but are also detrimental to their reproductive health.
[Source: by Zhang Ye, The China Business Review, 26.04.02; retrieved from www.chinalaborwatch.org/ on 10.04.06]

[The official ‘Xinhua News Agency’ of the government of China admitted that:

They are farmers-turned-workers, or migrant workers, a group now estimated to number 210 million. They come from the country’s poor rural areas and make a living working on assembly lines or construction sites. Now they are dubbed the newly-emerging working class. But unlike older workers, who have trade unions to ensure their voices are heard, most migrant workers have no such organization. Many of them are illiterate, and have a poor awareness of how to protect or advance their rights through an organization. And many of the enterprises they work for, mostly private firms, do not have trade unions…. (Xinhua News Agency, 04.04.05; retrieved from www.china-labour.org.hk/ on 10.04.06)

In the infamous Reebok factories located in Guangdong, the conditions of the women workers are harrowing. — UPDATE]

[Women] workers’ working conditions

(…) The pressures of [the] work environment create situation where some of female workers get various kinds of mental disturbances, adopt alcohol problems and even commit suicide.

Factories manufacturing for Reebok do not recruit male workers. Managements in those factories think that it’s much easier for them to manage female workers than male workers.

China’s huge unemployment population today enabled factories to do so. As a result, in those factories, the ratio between female and male workers reached about 10:1 and male workers can hardly find a job in those factories. Female workers, therefore, have to do male workers’ job such as lifting. Many female workers reported to our activists that they experienced sexual harassment from supervisors, but they have to keep silent for fear of losing their jobs.

Things are not easy for those who did manage to get married. Because husbands can hardly find jobs in those factories, they have to live separately from their wives. And wives have to shoulder most of financial responsibilities, and they usually have to work excessive hours to make ends meet.

Male workers find it very difficult to find a job in those factories. Another consequence of this policy is that many of the female workers working in those factories remain single for a long time. In China, the normal marriage age for women is about 21, especially for women who receive little education. But in the factories we investigated, a great number of women workers who are over 25 years old are still single.

Our statistics indicates that in the six factories, there are more than 2,500 couples living separately. Those couples won’t have family life for more than ten days in a whole year. More than 1,500 couples have to leave their children in their hometown hundreds or thousands of miles away from the factories. Some mothers last saw their kids three years ago. When they visit home, their children usually cannot recognize them.
[Source: www.chinalaborwatch.org/, January ’02; accessed on 10.04.06]

[The SEZ workers of China are confined within dormitories adjacent to factories to “control” their “non-working life”.]

The precarious [conditions] of women workers in Shenzhen SEZ

(…) The notorious working conditions in the special economic zones and industrial towns in China can be attributed to the dormitory labor regime. With accommodation tied to employment, the employer has control over the non-working life of the worker. With extended working, the employer can inhibit the job search time for workers. And the dormitory labour regime relies on young workers who can be easily controlled.

Dormitories are predominantly owned by local authorities and rented to factory owners. Increasingly however, foreign-invested firms are building their own dorms to suit their own particular needs and typically, these facilities are within compounds flanking the factory. In these settings, the spatial integration between working and non-working life is tighter, and companies, rather than the state, play a more commanding role in controlling workers’ lives. (…)

Nearly all the workforce in China Wonder were rural migrant workers from the provinces of Guangdong, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Sichuan. (…)

The dormitory building of three stories was just adjacent to the production building, which required only two minutes walk to the shop floor, thus easily facilitating a ‘just-in-time’ labour system. Each dormitory room housed 12-16 workers and was very crowded, lacking ventilation, adequate lighting, and absolutely no private or individual space. Workers on each floor share common toilets and bathrooms at the end of the corridor. The management admitted the living conditions were very poor, but blamed the local government for not providing enough space for adequate dormitory facilities. The dormitory building was built to accommodate 500 workers only, but in China Wonder, it always had more than 600 workers. (…)

[Source: by Pun Ngai, 2004; www.cwwn.org/download/; accessed on 04.04.07]
[SEZs of China are notorious with respect to the industrial health and hazards within the factory premises. On many occasions the workers have died due to overwork. Industrial accidents are also common.]

Inside China’s sweatshops: Guangdong

(…) We had come to follow up a story about a young woman called Li Chun Mei. Apparently the 19-year-old had collapsed and died last November at the end of a 16-hour shift. Like many of the staff, she often had to work past midnight, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

The girls who shared her dormitory found her lying on the bathroom floor with blood pouring from her nose and mouth.

The bosses, who were Korean, did not deny that Li had died on their premises. They blamed the death not on overwork but on earlier injuries Li suffered when she was hit by a motorcycle. In any case, at the end of last year she was working for a subcontractor.

That, they told us, absolved them of any responsibility. They produced a document — the contract of Li’s employer — signed with inky red thumbprints. (…)

Zhou Shien Pin came from a remote corner of the Sichuan province. He got a job in a paint factory and was hoping to save enough to build his family a house. But then he touched a high-voltage wire.
The accident has scarred his face and chest and his toes have melted away like wax, leaving just his ankles and heels. “My mother cried for two months after it happened”, he told me. The boss paid £2,500 ($4,000) compensation, but that money was quickly used up in medical fees and by relatives who had to travel down south to look after him. He’s fighting for more compensation but has little chance. Workers are dispensable in a place where there are four or five applicants for every job. (…)

[Source: by Lucy Ash, BBC, 20.07.02]

Death from Overwork in China

A new phenomenon – death from overwork (guolaosi) – has become increasingly common in China since the turn of the century and has attracted widespread publicity and comment in the Chinese media in recent months. (…) The following are some typical case reports of this disturbing new trend:

On 7 July 2006, the country’s major news websites all carried the story of Liu Yunfang, a textile worker at the Changlong Textile Plant in Fujian, who had suddenly died on the job from heatstroke brought on by sheer overwork.

On 28 May, Hu Xinyu, an engineer at the Huawei Company in Shenzhen died from exhaustion after working excessive overtime hours for nearly one month.

Last year, on 28 October, He Chunmei, a 30-year-old woman employed at the Huaxin Arts and Handicrafts Company Ltd. in Guangzhou, collapsed on the road outside the factory just after finishing her third overtime shift in 72 hours. She reportedly had slept a total of only six hours during that period.
She never regained consciousness.

Late at night on 30 May 2005, Gan Hongying, 35, died in her rented room in the Haizhu District of Guangzhou right after completing a four-day stretch of working 14 hours per day. The doctor’s certificate read simply: “sudden death” (cu si).

In June 2004, Yao Fangmei, a 23-year-old woman, and Zhou Zhiyong, a 19year- old man, both employed at the Taiwan-invested Nangang Shoe Factory, a subsidiary of the Nanhai Zhaoxin Enterprise Holding Company, both died from overwork within a five-day period. The two shoe workers had regularly worked 14 or 15-hour days at the factory over a two-month period, before finally collapsing on the production line. Both workers died in hospital a few days later.

At 6.00 am on 21 October 2003, a worker named Jin Wenchao died on the way home from his factory after working for 35 hours over a two-day period. He had been employed as a packer in the Baolian Manufacturing Company in Jiangling Village, in the Longgang District of Shenzhen. (…)

Most disturbing of all: in July 2006, the journal Liaowang Eastern Weekly (Liaowang Dongfang Zhoukan) revealed that according to statistics published by the China Association for the Promotion of Physical Health, at least one million people in China currently die from overwork each year. This is a staggeringly high figure. (…)

[Source: http://www.china-labour.org.hk/public/contents/article?revision %5fid= 39040&item%5fid=39035; accessed on 18.03.07]

[An official declaration admitted that:]

‘Crushed’: Pearl River Delta

This summer, the Chinese State Administration of Work Safety revealed that 15,000 people die annually in the PRC due to industrial accidents. (…) By all accounts, the rate and seriousness of occupational injuries has reached critical levels, poisoning the economic prosperity and threatening the stability China has achieved over the past two decades. In the Pearl River Delta alone, the fastest- growing industrial region in China and home to millions of migrant workers, at least 30,000 work-related injuries occur every year.

[Source: www.chinalaborwatch.org/, 26.09.05; accessed on 10.04.06]

Job Creation with SEZs

When incepted, the China government declared that one of the goals of the gigantic policies of the SEZs are job-creation. In fact, certain amount of new sweat- shop-like-jobs was created. But, it could not solve the unemployment problem in China which was increasing by leaps and bounds due to the “decollectivisation of agricultural production” in the countryside and massive restructuring of the old state-run units/industries in urban areas along the path of “free market’ leading to privatisation and closure of these units. Moreover, huge amount of new labour is being entered the job-markets each year. As a ‘solution’ of this burgeoning problem of unemployment, the government of China (just like the GoI) set up more SEZs and other ‘free zones’ even in the interior of the country. Interestingly, “thousands of SEZs were established by local governments… though most of them had failed” (Tatsuyuki Otai, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan, www.iae.univ-poitiers.fr) . Are the ruling classes of India and their cronies listening? Even the ‘successful’ SEZs of China could not wipe out this problem of unemployment. A official source of the China government states:

China’s booming economy will provide millions of new jobs in 2006, but growth will be insufficient to absorb all new entrants and laid-off workers, yielding a gap of 14 million unemployed, one million more than in 2005, according to official estimates presented at a recent conference in Beijing. (China Economic Net, 14.02.06; retrieved from www.china-labour.org.hk/ on 18.03.07)

Another source, slightly older, states that:

The minister (Labor and Social Security Minister Zheng Silin) said as many as 24 million urban Chinese enter the jobs market every year, eight million of them unemployed, six million laid-off by state-owned or other enterprises and a 10 million first-time entrants, mostly students and ex-soldiers. Another problem is the 150 million surplus laborers in the countryside, 93 million of whom are in cities, said Zheng. (www.chinalaborwatch.org/, 10.03.04)

This is the actual state of “job-creation” carried through the Chinese SEZs! Moreover, in the Chinese society rate of inequality is surging so rapidly that it already overtakes even India! One of above sources states that:

Employment creation effects generated by a rapid economic growth triggered by an enhanced large inflow of FDI in the SEZs were quite substantial, though accompanied by inflation, i.e. a skyrocketing hike in land price, rents and price of commodities. Per capita income in the SEZs also rose at a considerably higher rate than the national average. As a result, a serious regional income disparity was produced between the provinces with SEZs and national China. At the same time, an increasing number of social and economic crimes such as corruption, illegitimate trading, smuggling, environmental contamination, labor strikes (!), etc. had also taken place leading to a controversy concerning the justifiable role of the SEZs.

(Tatsuyuki Otai, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan, www.iae.univ-poitiers.fr)

Monthly Review (July-August 2004) states that the income inequality in China “surpasses the degree of inequality in Thailand, India (!), and Indonesia” and is increasing further. Though out of context of this issue of Update, it must be noted that in the SEZs & in the mainland China the workers have taken the path of struggle and revolts in the last few years. Moreover, in these struggles some signs “LEFTISM” (rejecting the brand of CPIM-CPIs) are observed (see ‘Conditions of the Working Classes in China’, Monthly Review, June 2006) — UPDATE]

Violent Land-grabs in China

More than 66 million Chinese farmers have lost their land in the past 10 years. It is a land grab which has fattened the wallets of government officials and left tens of thousands of people homeless.
[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4728025.stm, 02.08.05]

According to Dongzhou residents, as many as 20 people were killed when police opened fire on a crowd of thousands protesting inadequate land compensation. Villagers said many of the protesters were unarmed and that dozens of people are still missing. They also said they heard sporadic gunfire through the night, lasting for about 12 hours.
[http://mediachannel.org/blog/node/2409, 19.12.05]

[It is often reported in the media that land-grabbing is occurring in China in a violent manner. Hundreds of hundreds protests and resistances are common feature in present-day China which are being repressed with violent state-terror, bloodshed & killings. It is reported by a website:

Last year (2005), the Chinese reported 87,000 “mass incidents,” of unrest, or about 240 per day. This is up from 58,000 incidents in 2003; 40,000 in 2000; 24,500 in 1998; and 8,700 1993. “This is not something [China’s government is] dealing with occasionally, but on a constant daily basis,” says Joshua Muldavin, professor of Asian studies at Sarah Lawrence College.

(www.manufacturingnews.com/news/06/ 0515/art1.html, accessed on 17.03.07)

In fact all of these “mass incidents” were not involved with land-acquisition:

Chen Xiwen, a deputy minister in the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, said in a press conference yesterday that land disputes accounted for half of the rural unrest in China last year. Misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds and assets by grass-roots cadres accounted for about 30 per cent of cases, with the remaining 20 per cent involving protests against environmental pollution. (www.asianews.it/index.php, 31.01.07)

In the “mass incidents” occurring in China there are workers strikes and protests also. Hence, it can be estimated conservatively that more than ten thousands “mass incidents” in China occurring in 2005 were involved with land grab. Most of the cases of land-grab were perpetrated by the local governments, officials, party bureaucracies and village chiefs with the help of armies, police and even by hired thugs. Massive amount of land were being acquired for the stated purpose of setting up industrial zones (including SEZs and ‘free zones”), cities, housing projects & offices, expressways, hotels, amusement centres, golf courses etc. (Note the similarity of the Chinese ruling classes with that of India!)

The land-ownership of China is quite different in China (where people’s democratic revolution was completed in 1949) with respect to India. Above-mentioned authors of Monthly Review (July-August 2004) write:

In September 1980, the (China) government… ordered the decollectivisation of agricultural production. The decollectivisation process involved a series of steps in which the commune-based system was replaced by a family-based household production system….While in theory the land was still public property, in reality, it had become the private property of those families that had contracted for its use…. By the end of 1980s, those in possession of contracted land had full rights to rent it, sell it, or pass it to their heirs.

Thus a semi-private ownership on land was created, whereas in “theory” the land is still belonged to the state. Using this peculiar characteristics of land-ownership, the local governments of China are acquiring the land at their whims throwing some meagre compensations to the peasants. Millions of peasants were dispossessed of the right to till the land due to “decollectivisation” before. Now millions are being evicted for the sake of ‘industrialisation’ & ‘development’ mantra of globalisation.
Interestingly, the ruling elites of China have some supporters behind this path of ‘development’ (like the CPIM of West Bengal) who (Albert Keidel, a senior associate of the ‘notorious’ Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a ‘renowned’ imperialist think-tank) preaches:

…that it’s a “major error to think that the future of the vast majority of China’s rural persons is in rural China in farming…. Their future has to be urbanizing (read: ‘industrialisation’). It has to be taking non-farm jobs or they will be desperately poor for the rest of their lives.” (www. manufacturingnews.com/news/06/0515/art1.html)

In response to this argument Joshua Muldavin, professor of Asian studies at Sarah Lawrence College says:

There are “fundamental flaws” in the notion that China “will follow a similar linear path in development as Western Europe, the United States and Japan,” Muldavin replies. “Eight-hundred million peasant Chinese cannot become urban workers.” (ibid)

Under this context, the land-grab in China will have to be judged. It is mentioned in the earlier section that China had built number of SEZs and ‘free zones’ in the coastal areas and in the delta like Pearl River, etc. It is often argued in the Indian media that these zones were created without evicting a single person from the farmland. Following discussions will prove this wrong. — UPDATE]

Rural China: Too little, too late

(…) The top Chinese leadership is clearly alarmed by an upsurge in peasant protests unprecedented in China’s post-1949 history. (…) Remote towns such as Huaxi, Taishi and Shanwei broke into the news and became symbols of China’s “new rebellious countryside”. (…)

Indeed, many taxes levied in rural areas are technically illegal, but then many local governments are bankrupt. This is a legacy of the decentralization of local- government finances in the 1980s under Deng Xiaoping’s pro-capitalist reforms. This helps explain the rapacious seizure of farmland by local officials in collusion with property speculators, the single biggest trigger of peasant protests. Land sales are now the primary source of income for many local governments as well as a lucrative sideline for mafia-type local party bosses. Every year 200,000 hectares of farmland is turned into roads, factories, shopping malls and residential areas.

More than 50 million farmers have been displaced by such land grabs with little or no compensation, according to a study by the United Nations Development Program. These landless peasants have been pushed on to the bottom rung of China’s poverty ladder. Many are among the nearly 200 million rural migrants who have fled to coastal cities to join the “sweatshop proletariat” working under inhuman conditions mostly for the benefit of foreign capitalists.

When land is seized, peasants are compensated for its agricultural value, which according to some Chinese scholars averages about one-tenth of its market value. Village administrations take a cut, so the amount received by the peasants is often far less. By contrast, in the cities the privatization of housing since the late 1990s has created a middle class that is using its property as collateral to borrow. Trading property has become a big source of urban wealth. Of China’s 50 richest people, about half owe their fortunes in large part to property deals, according to Rupert Hoogewerf, the author of China’s first rich list. (…)

[Source: by Swati Lodh Kundu, www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/HG19Cb01.html, 19.07.06; accessed on 17.03.07]

[Thus, the massive land-grab under the collusion of the party-”mafia” & corrupt officials made the peasants ‘migrant’ labour whose conditions have been discussed earlier. Follow the next.]

The Great Chinese Land Grab is on

(…) Over the past seven years, China has lost 66,670 square kilometers in arable land, according to the Ministry of Land Resources, an estimate that many experts consider grotesquely below the actual figure and not reflecting desertification, poor management and unbridled illegal land grabs. While China is a vast country, the amount of arable land for a population of 1.3 billion, more than 800 million of them farmers, is relatively small and intensely cultivated. The situation is getting worse; China is now planning to lease cropland from Vietnam to help feed the Chinese people. (…)

‘Totally out of control’

A former communist cadre, who gave his name as Chen and spoke on condition of anonymity, gave vent to his indignation: “Totally out of control! All of the land appropriation of 13,000 mu [865 hectares] over the past decade was illegal. The land was once fertile farmland and robbed from the local peasants.” (…)

The situation in Dainan, also under Taizhou administration, is similar, if not worse. A small town with a population of 92,000, it nonetheless has set up eight industrial zones and a new economic development zone. According to an informed source, also speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, the land for industrial use already tops 998 hectares, some of which has been expropriated from local farmers without due legal process. Authorization from the town’s party chief is required to bypass all the required legal procedures and that authorization was acquired. (…)

The rush to grab land, whether by expropriation or forced “purchase” at unfair below-market prices, has reached virtual hysteria proportions in Zhangguo. Some enterprises, quite upbeat because of the likely appreciation in land prices, have bought more land than they need for actual plant construction, at about 15,000-30,000 yuan per hectare. Those who had earlier purchased at only 4,500 yuan can make a killing now.

[Source: By Xia Yunfan, www.atimes.com/atimes/China/FG17Ad03.html, 17.07.04; accessed on 17.03.07]

[The protests and resistances developing against these forced land-acquisitions have being repressed with state-terror including the hooliganism of the hired thugs. Note the following excerpts.]

Massive Protest by Sichuan Farmers Squashed by Police

Last Thursday, tens of thousands of people in Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province protested the government’s forced relocation: relocation made possible by tearing down their homes under orders issued by corrupt officials. Thousands lined the Pubugou Power Station on Dadu River to stop operation there. In response, police injured several dozen people and beat one man to death. In the areas surrounding Hanyuan County, police clashed with farmers and local students. After the police contained the situation, all lines of communication, including Internet, were cut off and traffic was tightly controlled.

According to reports from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the origin of the conflict was the Hanyuan’s county government’s forced relocation of a hundred thousand residents to build Pubugou Power Station, a hydroelectric power plant.

According to sources, local government officials and developers collaborated by reducing the compensation of property. They did so by downgrading its productive fertile farm land — claiming that it was arid, dry land near the mountains — and paying out type-five compensation that was in place 14 years ago. Those who refused to move in advance were arrested by police and public security guards. Farmers had believed that they could still retain their fertile farmland. However, they were forced to give up the land and move to land on the hillside where only corn could be grown. Farmers were only compensated half the value of their home while corrupted officials at different levels of the government filled their pockets with the other half. (…)

The Apple Daily reported on October 31st that Li, a farmer living in Qingfu Town, Hanyuan County, said, “50,000 to 60,000 villagers in towns such as Qingfu Town, Dashu Town, Shunhe Town, who are affected by the project at Pubugou Power Station, protested outside the station Wednesday night. Villagers held banners such as “Overthrow corrupt officials!” Hoping to delay the operation of the dam, protesters braved the cold weather for two nights as temperatures dropped to 35 degrees. “At that time, a lot of armed police and public security guards arrived. A man started to argue with police after they assaulted a seventy year-old woman. He was struck with a brick by the police which caused his death,” said Li.

On the following two days, October 28 and 29th, nearly 100,000 farmers and students marched to the county administration building and damaged the government facility, causing the government offices to shut down. Authorities urgently mobilized over 10,000 armed police to Hanyuan County. In the conflict that ensued, at least seven armed police were injured (…).

(…) Government officials warned that the instigators of the protest would be seriously punished for stopping the operation of the national dam project. It is believed that Pubugou Power Station, located in Hanyuan County, is the largest power station on the Dadu River. The State Council officially authorized the dam’s project on December 25, 2002. It is projected that when the dam is completed, the entire Hanyuan County and many nearby towns — a total of 44,000 mu (7,216 acres) — will be submerged. More than 90,000 people have already had to relocate.

[Source: http://en.epochtimes.com/news/4-11-10/24272.html, 10.11.04; accessed on 14.04.07]

[The mayhem continued with bloodshed and massacre.]

17 Farmers Shot Dead By Hanyuan Police

More than 700 armed policemen fired into a large crowd of protesting farmers during a bloody confrontation in Hanyuan, a village in Sichuan Province on November 6. Seventeen farmers were killed and forty wounded, a rights activist in Beijing told The Epoch Times.

The farmers were protesting their forced relocation by the government to build a power station in Sichuan.

The activist, who was on a phone call with the farmers during the shooting, reported that police began rounding up the farmers around 6 p.m. and started to shoot into the crowd around 10 p.m. that night.
“Right from the beginning of the call up until about 10 p.m., we heard gun shots and their crying. Our hearts were broken,” said the activist. The scene was described as “bloody” and “gruesome.”

Earlier in the day, state media reported that Luo Gan, the security chief from the central government, had flown in, raising hopes among the farmers that the government would listen to their grievances. It turned out that Luo was likely overseeing the crackdown on the farmers. (…)

[Source: http://en.epochtimes.com/news/4-11-12/24322.html, 12.11.04; accessed on 14.04.07]

[A ‘Nandigram’ was happened in China in 2005.]

Chinese Peasants Attacked in Land Dispute

Hundreds of men armed with shotguns, clubs and pipes on Saturday attacked a group of farmers who were resisting official demands to surrender land to a state-owned power plant, witnesses said. Six farmers were killed and as many as 100 others were seriously injured in one of China’s deadliest incidents of rural unrest in years.

The farmers, who had pitched tents and dug foxholes and trenches on the disputed land to prevent the authorities from seizing it, said they suspected the assailants were hired by corrupt local officials. They said scores of villagers were beaten or stabbed and several were shot in the back while fleeing.

Reached by telephone, a spokesman for the provincial government said he could not confirm or discuss the incident. “So far, we’ve been ordered not to issue any information about it,” he said.

Large contingents of police have been posted around Shengyou, about 100 miles southwest of Beijing, but bruised and bandaged residents smuggled a reporter into the village Monday and led him to a vast field littered with abandoned weapons, spent shell casings and bloody rags. They also provided footage of the melee made with a digital video camera.

Despite the attack, the farmers remained defiant and in control of the disputed land. They also occupied the local headquarters of the ruling Communist Party, where they placed the bodies of six of their slain compatriots. A crowd of emotional mourners filled the courtyard outside; hanging over the front gate was a white flag with a word scrawled in black ink: “Injustice.” Residents said party officials abandoned the building and fled town, apparently because they feared they would be blamed for the killings.

(…) The incident in Shengyou, a wheat- and peanut-farming village in central Hebei province, was unusual because the men sent to suppress the peasants appeared to be hired thugs rather than police, and because the conflict resulted in so many casualties.

Residents said the men arrived in six white buses before dawn, most of them wearing hard hats and combat fatigues, and they struck without warning, repeatedly shouting “Kill!” and “Attack!” Police failed to respond to calls for help until nearly six hours later, residents said, long after the assailants had departed.

Access to firearms is strictly regulated in China, but villagers said the men fired on them with hunting shotguns and flare guns. They also wielded metal pipes fitted with sharp hooks on the end. Because of the preparation, residents suggested the men might have ties to organized crime groups working with local officials.

The attack was first reported Monday in the Beijing News, a state-run tabloid known for testing party censors. The paper said one of the assailants died in the clash, and reported that authorities have already dismissed the party chief and mayor of the nearby city of Dingzhou, which governs Shengyou.
Officials in Dingzhou declined to answer questions, and managers of the Hebei Guohua Dingzhou Power Plant did not return phone calls.

Villagers said they began camping on the disputed land in the fall of 2003, after the plant announced that it would build a facility there for storing coal ash. (…) The plant agreed to pay them about $1,800 per acre, but residents said the offer did not meet national guidelines. They also accused local officials of stealing some of the money and demanded a full accounting.

Instead, Dingzhou police began harassing the village, detaining its leaders and once going so far as to surround the town in what residents said was an attempt to cut off food and water shipments. The farmers responded by digging in to block construction and keeping a 24-hour watch on the land, even through the winter. (…)

Two months ago, a group of 20 young toughs attempted to chase the farmers off the land, but the villagers fought back, captured one of the men and refused orders from party officials to hand him over to local police, residents said. Instead, they kept him in a pit.

During Saturday’s attack, some of the assailants appeared to be searching for the man, witnesses said. Farmers later moved him to a shed in the party headquarters and allowed a reporter to speak to him.
The man, Zhu Xiaorui, 23, appeared frightened but healthy, although his ankles were shackled. He said he had been recruited by a man he met at the Beijing nightclub where he worked. He said he was taken to the village, given a metal pipe and told to “teach a lesson” to the farmers, and was promised $12 for the job.

“The villagers have treated me kindly,” Zhu said, tears in his eyes. He added that he did not want to be turned over to Dingzhou police because he was afraid they would kill him for confessing to the farmers.
(…) Niu Tongyin, 62, one of the leaders of the farmers’ movement, bled to death from a stab wound. His body lay in the Party Members’ Activity Room, under portraits of Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Engels.

[Source: by Philip P. Pan, www.washingtonpost.com/, 15.06.05; accessed on 17.03.07]

China: army fires on peasant protesters

Soldiers in southern China’s Guangdong province have killed four people after firing on more than 1000 villagers protesting against the construction of a power plant.

The clash happened on Tuesday evening in Dongzhou village in Shanwei city when hundreds of officers from the People’s Armed Police — a unit of the People’s Liberation Army — were sent in to disperse the villagers, residents said on Wednesday. (…)

“Two died in a local hospital and two were taken to a hospital in Shanwei’s urban centre, but they died, too,” [a resident] said before his phone appeared to be cut off. (…)

Tensions have escalated for many months and came to a climax on Tuesday, according to villagers and protesters quoted by Radio Free Asia. “They were firing shots. But they were afraid to move in. We had blocked the roads with water pipes, gasoline and detonators,” a villager who called RFA late on Tuesday said. Another villager Radio Free Asia quoted said “many” villagers had suffered shotgun wounds.

“I don’t know what kind of guns. I just know they were using real bullets on us. No policemen were wounded,” the villager added. (…)

The power plant will be a coal-fired operation that occupies a large amount of land and prohibits villagers from using a nearby lake for raising fishery products and collecting other aquatic products.
“They didn’t get the villagers’ permission to take the land. They didn’t compensate villagers enough. That was the main reason for the dispute,” the villager said.

6 Nov 2004: Paramilitary troops put down an uprising of 100,000 farmers in Sichuan province 10 April 2005: 20,000 peasants drive off more than 1,000 riot police in Huaxi, Zhejiang province 11 June 2005: Six farmers die in a fight with armed men in Shengyou, Hebei province 6 July 2005: Several thousand farmers stand up to 600 policemen in Guangdong 20 July 2005: Hundreds people near Beijing block the entrance to land assigned for use for the 2008 Olympics 29 July 2005: Villagers in Taishi, Guangdong try to oust mayor 6 Dec 2005: Police shoot dead protesters in Dongzhou, Guangdong 14 Jan 2006: Police break up protest in Sanjiao, Guangdong, over land grabs [Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/, 02.08.05 & 19.01.06; accessed on 17.03.07] said. “Now we can’t even use the lake. We have very little land. We depend on raising fishery products to make a living.”

[Source: by Bill Weinberg, www.ww4report.com/node/1387, 12.10.05; accessed on 17.03.07]

Dozens Injured as Police and Farmers Clash in China

About 2,000 disgruntled farmers have clashed with hundreds of policemen in China’s northern region of Inner Mongolia in a land dispute that injured dozens in fighting one government official described as “anarchy”. The July 21 clash in Qianjin village, a part of Tongliao city about 725 km (450 miles) northeast of Beijing, was one of a growing number of protests across China, most of which go unreported in the tightly controlled state media.

“We were caught by surprise. Police punched and kicked villagers even as they lay on the ground,” one farmer said requesting anonymity.

“We’re ready to risk everything. If one government official comes, we’ll take on one. If several come, we’ll fight it out with several,” the farmer told Reuters. Some policemen were armed with guns, but did not open fire, another farmer said.

The incident lasted about six hours, the second farmer said, adding that police were eventually outnumbered and fled after other villagers rushed to the rescue of those beaten up. Dozens of injured villagers were taken to nearby hospitals, the farmers said.

Farmers seized bulldozers and other construction equipment intended for use in building a highway across the farmers’ land, which had been reclaimed by the government, the second said. (…)

Last week, farmers in the northern province of Hebei won a battle over land rights after months of protests culminated in a violent clash, one of the bloodiest in a wave of rural riots.

Some 300 toughs with rifles, clubs and sharpened pipes descended on Shengyou village in Hebei last month and clashed with the farmers, who were angry over a lack of compensation and staged a sit-in on land slated for a new lime plant.

Six villagers were killed and scores injured in the clash that highlighted growing disputes over land rights in China, where rapid development is encroaching on rural property and where the government places an overriding emphasis on the need for social stability. (…)
[Source: by Benjamin Kang Lim, http://en.epochtimes.com/news/5-7-27/30659.html, 27.07.05; accessed on 14.04.07]

More peasant unrest in China

(…) The residents of the village, Panlong, in Guangdong Province, said that as many as 60 people were wounded and that at least one person, a 13-yearold girl, was killed by security forces. The police denied any responsibility, saying the girl died of a heart attack.

Villagers said that the police had chased and beaten protesters and bystanders alike, and that villagers had retaliated by smashing police cars and throwing rocks at security forces in hit-and-run attacks.

Residents said Monday that the village had been sealed off, with the police monitoring roads into the area to check identification and bar access to outsiders. News of the violence appears to have been blocked in China.

The residents of Panlong said their anger had been set off by a government land acquisition program that they had been led to believe in 2003 was part of a construction project to build a superhighway connecting the nearby city of Zhuhai with Beijing. Later, the villagers learned the land was in fact being resold to developers to set up special chemical and garment industrial zones in the area.
The clash in Panlong was the second time in just over a month in which large numbers of Chinese security forces, including paramilitary troops, were deployed to put down a local demonstration. (…)

In Panlong on Saturday, the sixth day of protests, “the police arrived at 8 p.m., and then started beating people from 9 p.m., trying to disperse the crowd,” said a schoolteacher who spoke from the village by telephone, giving her name only as Yang. “When this happened, the crowd got very angry and lots of people picked up stones on the ground and threw them at the policemen. After being attacked, policemen were furious. They just beat up everyone, using their batons.”

Villagers said the demonstrations had begun as silent sit-ins but grew more boisterous by the day, as more people joined in. Eventually, they said, as many as 10,000 police officers were deployed, roughly twice the number of protesters at the peak of the demonstrations, according to some estimates.

In December, in the protest in Dongzhou, residents say as many as 30 people were killed when security forces opened fire on crowds of villagers demonstrating against the construction of a coal-fired power plant in their midst. The provincial authorities have acknowledged three deaths, but blamed the villagers for attacking the police. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have restricted access to the villag.

On August 18, 2005, the government announced the establishment of special heavily-armed “anti-terror” and riot police units in 36 major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Tianjin. These units, responsible for dealing with violent crimes, riots and disturbances, are equipped with everything from batons to armored vehicles. The first 500-strong squad was formed in Zhengzhou, the capital of impoverished Henan Province, where there have been regular reports of protests. Riot police armed with batons were called in to deal with a protest in Sanjiao, Guangdong Province, in January 2006. [Source: http://hrichina.org/public/contents/, 31.01.06] to sharply limit their coverage of the incident.

Unlike the events at Dongzhou, an out-of-the-way fishing village, the latest confrontation was in a rural enclave in the midst of some of China’s biggest and fastest-growing industrial cities.

The region that immediately surrounds Panlong is among the most heavily industrialized anywhere. It was the laboratory and launching pad for the economic reforms put in place by the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, which are credited with reviving China and turning it into a global economic powerhouse in the space of a generation.

Panlong is a short drive from Shenzhen, Dongguan and Zhuhai — all large and booming cities virtually created from scratch during China’s economic takeoff, which began in so-called special economic zones as part of the country’s sweeping economic changes. (…)

“We have many special zones in this area, and each of them attracts investment,” said a man who lives in a village adjacent to Panlong who was interviewed by telephone and gave his name as Hou. “The economic deals set in the past were not favorable, and many zones here have had smaller protests before, but the people were not united.”

“Now,” he continued, “there are uprisings everywhere.”

[Source: by Bill Weinberg, www.ww4report.com/node/1502, 16.01.06; accessed on 17.03.07]

From Riches to Rags

A group of angry and desperate villagers in the tiny village of Aoshi near Guangdong province’s Yunfu city lead a reporter to fields littered with broken granite and other construction debris. It was dumped deliberately to ruin the land and make it impossible for villagers to farm there again. The villagers complain the local authorities, in a deal with developers, seized the land, leaving farmers with nowhere to grow crops to sustain their families. They find themselves impoverished in the country’s richest province, even as China’s economy booms.

A 51-year-old man says he had to borrow money to live. “Before the government took our land, our life was very good,” he says. “My wife was growing vegetables, raising pigs and growing rice. We did not have to buy anything. Now, we have to buy everything. Now, we have to borrow money to get by. We do some odd jobs, if there are any.” (…)

“A bulldozer suddenly turned up one day and tore into my field. They didn’t inform the villag- ers what they were doing. I was so furious,” he said. “We confronted one official. He said: `You poor people are troublemakers; why don’t you sue us?’ They are so arrogant.” In western Shunde, residents complained their land was sold to build luxury villas and said officials pocketed 98 percent of the profit, while they received only the remaining 2 percent. Some 500 angry villagers surrounded a local government office to demand an explanation but failed. They tried to impeach seven officials but that drew threats from a local police officer — whom villagers said colluded with local officials — against villager Chen Huijuan. “They told me if I don’t stop, they would arrest me and put me in jail for 15 years,” Chen said. [Source: www.thestandard.com.hk/, 15.01.07; accessed on 28.01.07] Video footage secretly taken the day authorities seized the land shows bulldozers plowing through crops as helpless villagers looked on. Security agents shown in the video were heavily armed. It was clear the police anticipated violence.
This 60-year-old villager says agents far outnumbered villagers. She says no one could stand up to them.

“The police knocked on the doors of all the villagers. They brought handcuffs and guns with them to threaten us,” she says. “I was so scared that I did not dare to go outside to use the communal toilet. They said that if we left our houses, they would arrest us.”

Many villagers refused the compensation local officials offered, saying their land is not for sale and especially not for the low price of about $3500 that the developer offered for each plot.

The farmers say the former village chief who made the deal with developers for the land has retaliated by sending thugs to threaten — and in some cases — beat those who protested the seizure. (…)
Not being able to meet family obligations has caused some to despair. The man speaks of a friend who was driven to suicide.

“He had no income and could not afford to pay the school fees of his two children,” he says. “He climbed up to touch some power lines and electrocuted himself.”

In the days following the land seizures, the 60-year-old woman petitioned local officials and threatened to take her case to Beijing. The officials threw her in jail for 12 days.

“When I was in jail, the officers asked me: ‘now, do you still want to go to Beijing? I said, ‘even if I do not go, others will.’ We have nothing but anger and hatred toward the local government,” she says.

As in other cases of unrest in China, local authorities in Aoshi resorted to two tactics to put down uprisings: overwhelming force and propaganda.

Villagers at Aoshi village complain their land was taken not for the public good, but for the good of a few, well-connected officials and business owners. One man points to a bright new auto dealership sitting on his old field. For him, it is a cruel reminder of the new prosperity of which he has no part.

“Wherever you go, people say life in Guangdong is great. But the fact is our area is a place that has been forgotten by others in Guangdong,” he says. “Our life is very hard. If you can’t find a job, all you can do is wait for death.” (…)

The province has seen some of the most violent uprisings reported in the country over the past year. In some, government agents opened fire and killed demonstrators. Villagers at Aoshi know this has happened at other places and say they remain committed to finding a peaceful solution. (…)
[Source: by Luis Ramirez, www.voanews.com/english/archive/2006-05/2006-05-08voa13. cfm, 08.05.06; accessed on 19.03.07)

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