A Hong Kong-based labour rights group has denied a report by China’s state news agency Xinhua, which said it helped orchestrate an ongoing strike on the mainland where about 80 workers and student supporters were arrested.
Worker Empowerment, a social group fighting for labour rights on the mainland and registered in Hong Kong, issued a statement on Monday in response to an “investigative report” published by Xinhua on Friday.
“Worker Empowerment did not organise or finance the workers of [Jasic Technology] or their supporters,” the group said in its statement.
In the 3,600-word report last Friday, Xinhua alleged Worker Empowerment was supported by a “Western NGO” and had financed a Shenzhen labour rights group that had helped some of those involved in the strike.
Worker Empowerment did not organise or finance the workers of [Jasic Technology] or their supporters
Worker Empowerment statement
“All the centre’s funding was actually financed by Worker Empowerment, an overseas organisation supported by a Western NGO,” the report read, using the words jingwai zuzhi – literally translated to “overseas organisation” – to describe the Hong Kong group.
It is a term state media has used before to refer to non-mainland organisations.
The conflicts started in mid-July, when several workers founding a new labour union in the Shenzhen Jasic Technology had been laid off and some were beaten by strangers and security staff.
The workers were trying to negotiate with the company about an earlier dismissal of a worker called Yu Juncong, as well asking for better working conditions, ranging from safer production houses and timely full payment of salaries and welfare.
Later in July, some students from more than 20 universities on the mainland – including the top schools Peking University and Tsinghua University – joined efforts to voice support for the workers after 29 protesting workers and their supporters were arrested.
The dispute reached another height earlier this month when Shen Mengyu, a master's degree holder-turned factory worker as well as labour rights leader in Guangzhou, was forcibly taken to Shenzhen and kept under house arrest.
Early on Friday morning, police in riot gear raided a private residence at the northeast border of Shenzhen where about 40 students and other supporters of the workers were staying, according to a report by Reuters.
On Friday midnight, Xinhua published a 3,600-word report on “whether some forces are using the workers to make trouble”.
The report said worker Yu Juncong sought help from Fu Changguo, a staff member at the Migrant Workers Centre, a labour rights group in Shenzhen after Yu was dismissed for absences from work and fighting with people.
“When Yu and a few others were creating disturbances at Jasic company and local police branches, Fu was constantly reposting seditious words, videos and internet links in several chat groups, instigating group members who were previously not involved to go to the protest sites or to make online donations,” the Xinhua report said.
The report said the Migrant Workers Centre was an “illegal organisation” without proper NGO registration on the mainland.
Two members of Worker Empowerment had been providing regular training and consulting for the centre, including “coercing a small number of workers to take radical action”, according to the report.
The report also quoted Fu saying that money covering the centre’s operational costs from Worker Empowerment would first be sent to a personal account held outside the mainland by the centre’s founder Huang Qingnan and then transferred to Fu’s account on the mainland.
In its statement issued on Monday, Worker Empowerment said it had learned that Fu and Huang had been detained by the Shenzhen police for “picking quarrels and making trouble” since August 10 and 13 respectively. The duo was not allowed to meet their lawyers, according to Worker Empowerment.
“Since the end of July, current and former staff of the Migrant Workers Centre have been summoned and questioned by local police regarding the Jasic workers’ actions. These staff members have repeatedly told the police that the centre had nothing to do with the actions and the centre did not participate in organising the Jasic workers,” the Hong Kong-based labour group said in the statement.
It added: “Worker Empowerment is honoured to have participated in their [mainland NGOs’] services for the society, and to have made humble contributions to resolve labour disputes through labour policy studies and educational activities. These have never been called illegal overseas activities by the mainland authorities.”
A spokesman for Worker Empowerment said the group “knew” the Migrant Workers Centre in Shenzhen and declined to comment on whether the group had been providing training or funding for the centre.
“We have sent our statement to the public security authorities and the procuratorates of Shenzhen and Guangdong,” the spokesman said.
Shenzhen police have not responded to inquiries sent from the Post.