MAC: Mines and Communities

China update

Published by MAC on 2007-06-15

China update

15th June 2007

A meeting between the EU and the Chinese authorities was aborted last month when the Chinese delegation walked out, protesting at the presence of two Chinese-directed human rights groups.

One of these was the China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based NGO which, inter alia, examines the impacts of the mining industry on China's workforces - specifically in coal.

Here we also reproduce in full an address made by CLB's director, Han Dongfang, on the eighteenth anniversary of the Tianamen Square massacre. This is accompanied by a list of Labour activists who have been persecuted by the regime - a significant number of whom are involved in the minerals' industry.

Appalling mistreatment of brick kiln workers (including children as young as eight) has shocked many Chinese citizens.

Our regular summary of what Chinese minerals and metals companies are up to abroad carries news from Burma, Kenya, India, Peru and the US; while Canada's Alcan is planning to expand its presence in China

Chinese delegation walks out of human rights dialogue meeting with the European Union over the participation of China Labour Bulletin and Human Rights in China.

China Labour Bulletin E-Bulletin No.35

9th June 2007

In May 2007, the 24 member states of the European Union (EU) for the first time formally invited both China Labour Bulletin (CLB) and the New York-based group Human Rights in China (HRIC) to attend the Experts' Seminar part of the China-EU Human Rights Dialogue meeting in Berlin, Germany. The EU formally notified the Chinese government about these invitations and the proposed participation of CLB's delegate, labour rights expert Cai Chongguo. At a meeting of the EU's representative in Beijing and the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Chinese officials expressed strong concern over these arrangements, but the Chinese delegation was nonetheless dispatched to Berlin.

During the opening ceremony of the Experts' Seminar on May 10, however, the head of China's government delegation again protested the presence of CLB and HRIC, which he characterized as "anti-government organisations," and demanded their exclusion from the meeting. When the EU delegates refused China's demand, the Chinese delegation head ordered all its experts and scholars to withdraw from the meeting. (Regrettably, the EU had earlier acceded to Chinese government pressure by un-inviting another expert NGO, the San Francisco-based Duihua Foundation.) As a result, the entire two-day event had to be cancelled.

As a non-political group dedicated to advancing the cause of labour rights in China, CLB is in no sense an "anti-government organisation". To the contrary, we seek positive engagement with the Chinese authorities in order to further the vital goals of resolving the growing tensions between management and labour in the Chinese workplace and, on a wider-scale, reducing the growing social disparity between rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless. The China-EU Human Rights Dialogue takes place twice a year, once in a European member state capital, once in Beijing. This year's main topics were labour rights and fair trials, and so CLB's participation in the discussion would have been entirely appropriate.

Although the EU-China dialogue meetings have been in progress for over a decade, very little improvement has been seen in China's human rights and labour rights situation. The country's economy has developed rapidly but the plight of the workers has become an issue of growing international concern. We believe that CLB, as an acknowledged expert group with 13 years' experience in monitoring and analysing Chinese labour rights issues, especially in the area of labour law, would have made a valuable and constructive contribution to the dialogue process.

The EU's invitation to CLB to take part in the Berlin meeting demonstrated its serious concern over the current labour rights problems in China, and also a desire to contribute constructively to their resolution by seeking the views of expert non-governmental groups. The participation of CLB would have benefited both workers in China and the wider EU-China dialogue process. We therefore regret the decision of the Chinese government delegation to withdraw from the meeting, and we applaud the firm stance taken by the EU delegation in refusing to exclude CLB and HRIC.

There follows, in full, the speech that was due to be delivered at the Berlin dialogue meeting on May 10 by CLB's delegate, Cai Chongguo.

Why Can't Regulations Safeguarding Labour Rights be Implemented?

Compared with previous administrations, the new government under Premier Wen Jiabao does emphasize the protection of workers' rights. From tackling coal mining safety to implementing equal treatment for migrant workers, the Chinese government has promulgated a series of initiatives and policies to improve employment, and better workers' lives and working conditions. In particular, to protect the interests of migrant workers, the government has brought out a series of policies opposing discrimination, and providing vocational training and employment services.

However, these policies and other national laws protecting workers are rarely enforced at the enterprise level, and there is often collusion between officials and companies that is tantamount to a barrier at the main gate of the workplace or mine to protect the employer. This is currently the major problem impeding protection of the interests of labour in China. As a result, we see certain phenomena occurring: on the one hand, there are more and more laws and government policies on labour, but on the other hand, the working and living conditions of workers are not only not improving, they are deteriorating. The main reason behind this is the lack of a fundamental balance of power between labour and management.

Workers - and this naturally includes migrant workers - do not have the most basic rights, such as the right to collective bargaining and to organize their own unions. With no supervision or advocacy from the collective power of labour, laws and central government resolutions will not be respected or administered.

In this regard, I will take the current situation of the Chinese government and its laws as a point of departure and propose some concrete measures to thoroughly address this imbalance between labour and management in enterprises. I will also suggest ways of promoting collective bargaining mechanisms and methods of integrating contract negotiations and corporate social responsibility, to address the problem of the failure to implement laws and regulations intended to protect the interests of labour.

As we shall see, more than two decades of economic reforms have wrought enormous changes in China's economic and social structure. In the cities and towns, on the one hand, private and foreign capital and joint ventures are increasing rapidly. Many state-owned enterprises have been transformed by bureaucrats and private capital using black box operations to become privately-owned, private-sector companies. Huang Mengfu, chairman of the All China Federation of Industry and Commerce, announced on January 31, 2007 that as of the end of 2006, there were 4,977,000 private companies registered in China, and the private economy accounted for approximately 65 percent of the nation's GDP. On the other hand, with the state having withdrawn from operations of the remaining state-owned enterprises, these SOEs are essentially no different from private companies: their leadership can unilaterally decide work conditions and income for workers, and unilaterally hire and fire. They have become economic entities in search of the greatest possible profit. The pointed confrontation between labour and management that had disappeared from Chinese society after 1949 is now making a structural reappearance.

With such a conflict of interest between the parties, owners of companies and enterprise managers in China today not only have the power of capital, they are also very tightly linked to public power and the mass media controlled by that power, and this makes them particularly strong. And standing on the other side of this conflict of interest is the individual worker, with both hands empty. These huge changes to the economic structure of society and the severe imbalance of social power they engender are the core reasons for the deterioration of the living and working conditions of Chinese workers and for the ever more marked contradictions in society.

If there is no change to the very low position of workers in society and their lack of basic rights, the implementation of state laws protecting workers and related government administrative orders must rely on moral quality and determination to implement law on the part of the owners and leaders of companies and local government leaders. History and experience have shown early on that reliance on ethical will to resolve conflicts of interest affords no guarantees. Moreover, widespread corruption and wholesale corporatization of education, health and other public areas have deepened the moral crisis in Chinese society. Those in charge of local government are most concerned with doing all they can to attract foreign capital and raise economic growth rates. Given this situation, the idea that workers' rights can be guaranteed and laws implemented on the basis of the consciences of the owners is nothing more than an illusion.

And indeed, that is the situation. Wages currently in arrears and coal mining accidents, two issues that Premier Wen Jiabao has particularly espoused, are telling examples. At the end of 2003, Wen Jiabao met with Xiong Deming, a worker whose wages were in arrears, and personally inquired about the problem of wage arrears nationwide. Three years later, many provinces and cities have not yet established dedicated Handling of Wage Arrears offices as they were instructed to do.

Wen Jiabao has visited many coal mines and spoken before many People's Congresses of his determination to have the government resolve the issue of mine safety. County-level governments, as well as a few on the village and township levels, have set up State workplace safety supervisory and management structures.

According to official sources, over the last few years, senior leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and the government filed hundreds of written comments and instructions on these matters. However, based on official statistics for the beginning of 2006, the total amount of wages in arrears in 2005 was the same as in 2004, a sum of RMB 100 billion each year. In other words, after a year of intense government focus, the problem of wage arrears had not seen any improvement. After this, the government no longer made public official figures on wages in arrears, but we have seen many reports of workers climbing atop tall buildings and cable cars to demand payment of back wages with the threat of suicide. An Internet report from Hubei in July of 2006 cited statistics saying that from June 1 through July 15, fire-fighters in Wuhan were summoned on 44 calls to aid individuals who'd threatened to jump off buildings. Some 70 percent of these prospective suicides were workers with wages in arrears.

The results of the Chinese government's attempts to rectify the problems of coal mine safety are similarly limited. Indeed, according to figures released by the State Administration of Work Safety, compared to the previous year, the number of deaths due to coal mining accidents did decline in 2006, however, the government also admits at the same time that there was a rapid increase in cover-ups of such incidents. In particular, since last winter, a new wave of mining accidents has been seen, with March 2007 deaths up a dramatic 100 percent or more over those in February. There are 30,000 to 40,000 small coal mines in China, both legal and illegal. An article in the February 2, 2007 edition of the Chinese-language weekly China Newsweek [Zhongguo Xinwen Zhoukan] quoted a source in the coal mining industry as saying that it was common for two miners to perish each year in every small-scale coal mine.

Despite the government's concern for workers' interests, relations between labour and management are growing tenser by the day. In 2005, 31,400 labour disputes went to arbitration. This represents an increase of 20.5 percent over the previous year. In April, 2006, the State Council's Office of Research released its Report on Displaced Migrant Workers in China. According to the report, only 47.78 percent of migrant workers were able to draw their salary on time. Just 13.7 percent of them work 8 hours a day, and more than 70 percent of migrant workers had no benefits. Of the women, 79.8 percent were not paid a salary during maternity leave. In particular, in recent years, due to the mysterious black-box operations of SOE restructuring, forcing workers to accept severance payments to end their relationship with companies, low unemployment subsidies and retirement benefits, as well as the low wages and long working hours resulting from privatization, there have been continuing worker strikes, demonstrations and marches, sit-ins blocking highways and railroads, and other group actions.

Statistics show that in 2004, throughout China, there were over 70,000 group actions involving 100 people or more. In 2005, this number exceeded 87,000. On December 8, 2006, the Xinhua Network reported that, "major group actions continue to occur, and are becoming broader and broader...the degree of violence in the confrontations is clearly stepping up, and there exists the potential for bloody incidents to develop."

Experts estimate that of these group incidents, over 30 percent were actions involving the defence of migrant workers' rights, and more than 20 percent were actions by workers in which migrant workers were involved. These actions sometimes involved tens of thousands of people. For example, to protest arbitrary dismissals and raise the amount of severance subsidies, in August of 2005 several thousand workers at the Chongqing Special Iron and Steel Plant blockaded the roadway. In November, 2005, several thousand workers from four state-owned construction companies took to the streets, and on November 29, 2005, a few thousand workers who had been dismissed blockaded the office building for the Shengli Oil Field Management Bureau. In February, 2006, over 1,000 workers from Heze Textiles in Shandong went out on strike for a raise in wages; in July, 2005, Dalian Development District saw more than 30,000 on strike for higher wages.

In the past, people participating in collective actions to fight for workers' rights were primarily of two types: one was laid-off workers from the towns and cities, while the other was the migrant workers unable to obtain residence rights in the city. The majority of workers employed in cities and towns feared dismissal and were unwilling to get involved in any actions to defend workers' rights. In recent years however those workers who are still employed have begun to organize strikes and other collective actions to defend their rights. This is because, after the restructuring of state-owned enterprises (privatization), the town and city-based workers in enterprises are seeing wages and benefits similar to the wages and working conditions of the migrant workers. Their motivation for coming out is virtually the same as that of the migrant workers: to seek higher wages and reduce working hours. The difference is that workers in the cities and towns usually demand retirement benefits at the same time, as well as medical care and social insurance, while the migrant workers are unable to make such demands because of their inferior residential status.

In coal mines, where accidents are frequent, in companies where there are problems of wages in arrears, or wherever there are worker strikes and demonstrations, the workers either have no union, or have a union whose leadership is appointed by the company or the government, and which affords no protection for the interests of workers. Thus, ordinarily, the company leadership and the employer are under no pressure from organized workers within the company, and they openly violate the labour laws and government laws and regulations involving enterprise restructuring and workplace safety. This leads directly to explosions and other accidents in the mines. In other enterprises, workers do not have the right to collective bargaining, and in the beginning can only accept what is coming. In the end, daily dissatisfactions and indignation accumulate until they reach a flash point and are expressed as sudden, often forceful collective action.

Moreover, during these actions, the workers understand that, because the employer despises them and there is no true collective bargaining system, the problem can never be solved within the company. Only an outburst of collective action can break out of the factory confines and bring their problems to the attention of the outside world. Only in this way can the masses be energised and public opinion and government agencies become focused on the issue at hand. And when these external forces start to have an impact, worker demands will finally stand a chance of gaining at least minimal satisfaction. Furthermore, these workers often know of the oppression of local government and the risks they are running. They realize the price they might have to pay. As a result, these collective actions often occur only when the workers are at their most desperate and feel they have no choice but to protest.

The above examples show that to solve problems like wages in arrears or mine accidents, and to reduce collective protests by workers and resolve them in a timely manner, the most important thing is not new laws nor constant announcements of new policy documents by the government. Instead, it is to change the imbalance of power between labour and management, both within enterprises and throughout society as a whole. Workers must have their own power to organize, they must have the legal right to strike, they must have their own publications, and there must be academics, reporters, authors and lawyers who respect them, understand them and support them. In this way, they can finally become a group that has influence and dignity within enterprises and within society. Similarly, in the course of ordinary business management, employers should not disrespect workers´ interests, and they must fear that if they violate or fail to implement laws or government policies they will encounter organized opposition from the workers. At the same time, a genuine collective bargaining mechanism between labour and management must be established both within enterprises and between enterprises in the same industry. In this way, worker grievances and specific demands can be expressed and met in a timely manner.

Even if a few demands cannot be met, the communication during the negotiation process serves to deflect the antagonism and prevent the matter from escalating into a mass protest. At the same time, this sort of group negotiation also serves to encourage greater transparency in enterprise management and restructuring. This in turn can discourage large-scale corruption problems in these areas. Likewise, only in this way will those who run enterprises no longer dare to withhold wages from workers, and a whole laundry list of government policies intended to prevent this will finally be implemented.

During the process of enterprise restructuring, many worker interests are infringed upon. The various government documents regulating enterprise restructuring have been ineffectual in dealing with this problem. But the solution to this problem can be found with unionisation. If all the SOEs being restructured had a union that workers could believe in, if this union could represent the workers as per the Union Law right from the outset, and if it could proactively participate in the restructuring process, then workers' jobs would be protected and post-contract reassignments and social insurance issues could be eliminated. There would be negotiations with the government officials and the enterprise managers undertaking the restructuring, and the restructuring of enterprises would not infringe worker rights as it does today - and China would not see workers taking to the streets in protest, as we see today.

The solution for coal mine safety lies here too. The majority of private mine owners simply disregard the government's laws and the many pronouncements of government leaders. This is because of corruption and lack of any responsibility in the local government agencies charged with supervising the administration of the law. Mine owners essentially have the right to decide whether workers live or die, and great numbers of peasant miners have no organized power whatsoever. To reduce mine accidents, the most important and practical task facing the Chinese government and society at present is not to create more regulations. Rather, it is to establish workers' workplace safety supervisory organizations, and give the miners their own organized power. When mine owners violate the law or workplace safety regulations, they will encounter from the miners organized opposition that will enjoy the support and legal protection of the government. This is the only way that we can begin to improve mine safety in China.

There is a huge imbalance of power between labour and management within Chinese enterprises. This means that the administration of policies and other national laws protecting workers, as well as safety, relies on the moral goodwill of the employer as well as an external administrative authority. To date, the government has not yet adopted any measures to give workers the power to organize unions, and redress this huge imbalance. The only plans so far have been to intensify the efforts of law enforcement agencies. The result is that not only is there no improvement in the enforcement of these laws and regulations, but, even more serious, the idea is being instilled and reinforced that the Chinese worker is always a pitiable figure, one that requires saving, and that workers are some sort of "disadvantaged group" requiring charity. Because of this, many people believe that workers in China cannot protect themselves or even control their own fate. Without the assistance of the government, or the employer, or some social group, they are lost. Chinese workers are falling into a vicious spiral where "the more protected they are, the weaker they become."

The more workers are despised, the worse their living conditions become. There is no point in simply establishing new legal policies to guarantee the implementation of laws and regulations. If this is done, there will be no end to it. On the contrary, China's workers must have power. They must have respect. They must have the power to protect themselves and to rely on themselves to make sure that their legal rights are respected. This requires Chinese labour to have the power to organize itself. With this kind of organizational power in place, the imbalance between labour and management within enterprises can be ameliorated.

This has the potential to fundamentally improve the status of workers and also rationalize the behaviour of enterprises and local government. Often, it is only when facing off with labour in a protest that these parties are forced to consider the interests of labour and their own long-term interests. With a collective bargaining mechanism based on labour's own power, the group actions described above, as well as street protests, would decline. In fact, they would drop dramatically. The political, social and financial cost paid by society and the government would be reduced, as would the chances of labour disputes escalating into political conflict and anti-government action. Thus, rectifying the balance of power between labour and management would rationalize all the elements of society and social governance.

At present, what is most needed is not the implementation of government documents and the articles of law. Rather, it is for concrete action on the part of the government to adjust the balance of social power. The first step must be to release imprisoned labour activists, and to openly pledge to abandon and forbid any further persecution of those activists who form the backbone of the labour movement. Arrests and persecution of the labour movement not only violates international labour standards and goes against basic ethics of governance, it is also the prime cause of the weakened power of labour and the imbalance between labour and management in China.

This persecution is a sign of collusion between capital and political power, and causes workers all over China to lose their leaders as well as resulting in the workers living in constant fear of the dual punch of political power and capital. They meekly accept the blows dealt to them and dare not organize themselves in opposition. This kind of fear causes resentment to build up until finally, all too often, it explodes in violence, anger and hatred. This kind of persecution also makes disputes between labour and management more difficult to foresee and resolve, because prior to and after the conflict, workers are usually unwilling to put themselves forward as representatives. Management and local government are thus unable to find a true counterpart for negotiations in a timely manner, and it becomes more difficult to use negotiation and bargaining to resolve conflicts. The ones who pay for this are not only the workers; all of society is paying an enormous price for the government's persecution of the labour movement.

In many ways, the government itself is directly responsible for conflicts between labour and management and for other conflicts within society. The Chinese government must change its essentially passive role, get out from behind one side in the labour-management dispute and play the role of facilitator and arbitrator in social conflicts. It must assist all levels of society, and particularly assist labour - scattered, silent, fearful, and without experience in organization - to independently organize itself, and on that foundation construct a systematic and legally enforceable mechanism for negotiations between labour and management. In this way, the laws of the nation and the policies of the government will finally have an effective basis for implementation. In this way, the government and the state can finally have the neutral authority, public trust and effectiveness required to order society and manage the market economy.

This is the only way to guarantee social stability and harmony for the long term.

CLB Director Han Dongfang's commentary on the 18th anniversary of June 4.

CLB's updated list of Labour Rights Activists Imprisoned in China.

June 4, 1989 - The opening act of a tragedy

Han Dongfang, China Labour Bulletin, E-Bulletin No.34, June 4 2007

EIGHTEEN years have passed since the bloody suppression of the 1989 democracy movement in China. Among the most memorable images of that time - alongside the chilling scenes of the dead and injured on the streets of Beijing, and the inspiring vision of the young man in a white shirt standing in front of the tanks - were those of a frail and trembling Deng Xiaoping, the man who ordered the crackdown, at a televised meeting on June 9 with the soldiers and leaders of the People's Liberation Army. This footage revealed another side of the "great man": that of someone haunted by the tragic consequences of his own actions and in desperate search of historical vindication.

Hoping to wash the blood from his hands and calm his troubled soul, Deng needed an explanation for the crackdown - in essence, a justification for wholesale murder - and the mantra he came up with was "safeguarding social stability". Increasingly over the past 18 years, the Chinese government has cited China's spectacular economic development as a way of justifying the crackdown on the 1989 democracy movement, claiming that social stability has been the key to economic growth. This flawed logic has underpinned the authorities' relentless suppression of political dissidents, arrests of labour rights activists, and persecution of civil rights advocates that continues to this day.

In recent years, however, the policy of using terror tactics to maintain a fragile façade of social stability in China has begun to backfire.

Eighteen years after the suppression of a democracy movement that was opposed to corruption, corruption has become an incurable illness at the heart of the Communist Party. At the same time, the breakneck pace of economic development has brought about clear and tangible evidence of social disintegration on all sides. As a result, an autonomous civil rights (wei quan) movement has now sprung up and begun to penetrate cities, towns and villages around China. Too many citizens have been adversely affected by the government's corruption-ridden paradigm of growth without democracy, and more and more of them are now fighting back, using the language of rights and rule-of-law as their weapon.

China's post-Tiananmen economic success story has caught the imagination of the world; but in fact, the increasing gap between rich and poor since 1989 has been equally spectacular. Take the reform of state owned enterprises (SOEs), for example, and in particular the creation of the SOE share system that forced workers to pay to become shareholders, since having no shares would mean losing one's "rice bowl." Those without savings even had to borrow to take part in this scheme. The workers knew it was a trap, but one they had no way of avoiding. In the end, the great majority of the reformed enterprises made losses or went bankrupt, and the workers' accumulated life savings simply vanished into thin air. In most cases, the money ended up in the pockets of corrupt enterprise bosses.

Although murmurs of resentment could be heard everywhere, for many years China's workers dared not openly give voice to their anger, largely because of the officially prolonged "June 4 crackdown effect", which was like a sharp sword hanging constantly over their heads. Any organized attempts at protest or resistance were branded as "threats to social stability" and were met with harsh repression. The resultant lack of any effective, organised opposition from the workers left individual SOE bosses free to gradually reshape the entire businesses to their own personal ends.

In effect, the government's post-Tiananmen policies became a protective shield for the wholesale and unopposed transformation of China's public wealth into private assets. In the seven years between 1998 and 2004 alone, 30 million workers were forcibly laid off from SOEs. A huge proportion of them and their families were reduced to a state of permanent poverty, while in the process countless government officials and SOE managers became multi-millionaires.

Deng Xiaoping's hard-line policy of repression in 1989 was a mistake; trying to justify murder and the use of political terror in the name of stability was another mistake; and maintaining that political repression in exchange for rapid economic growth over the past 18 years has been a third mistake. As a result of these major policy errors, the Chinese government lost the golden opportunity that arose in the late 1980s to initiate political reforms and start building a democratic system. And now, two decades later, as the façade of social stability begins to crumble under the weight of growing worker anger and the rise of the civil rights movement, the Party is finding it has no option but to fundamentally reassess its ability to govern and to re-examine the very basis of its legitimacy.

Hence, in an attempt to assuage growing public anger and defuse the mass protests erupting all over China, the country's leaders have been obliged to put forward the goal of creating a "harmonious society." However, it is impossible to create a harmonious society unless one enjoys the trust and confidence of the people. And President Hu and Prime Minister Wen cannot secure such things by fiat or repression: they will have to earn them by actually implementing the "people-oriented" policies that they claim to espouse.

The man who ordered the June 4 crackdown passed away a decade ago, and both China's leadership and the government's socio-economic policies have changed conspicuously since then. But politically, the terror tactics remain in place and the "June 4 crackdown effect" still persists. China's current leadership now needs to make some bold new choices and stop repeating the mistakes of the past. Only thus will they be able to truly establish a "harmonious society" and re-establish the Party's popularity and legitimacy. The great mistakes of the past cannot be undone, but today's leaders could, given sufficient political wisdom and foresight, at least begin to repair the damage. Until that happens, the curtain will remain unclosed on the national tragedy prompted by the events of 18 years ago in Beijing.

Labour Rights Activists Imprisoned in China

Information about imprisoned labour rights activists in China is difficult to obtain, since many of the worker activities or protests that lead to their arrest and sentencing take place in cities without any independent news media presence, and so tend to go unreported. The following list of 23 labour rights activists currently imprisoned in China is by no means complete.


Gao Hongming

In January 1998, Gao Hongming, a veteran of China's 1978-79 Democracy Wall dissident movement, and his fellow activist Zha Jianguo, wrote to the head of the state controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), Wei Jianxing, and applied for permission to form an autonomous labour group called the China Free Workers Union. In a statement faxed to the National People's Congress at that time, Gao said: "China's trade unions at all levels have become bureaucracies, and their officials bureaucrats. This has resulted in the workers becoming alienated [from the official union]."

In early 1999, after also playing a leading role in the formation of the now banned China Democratic Party (CDP), both Gao Hongming and Zha Jianguo were arrested and charged with "incitement to subvert state power." On August 2 that year, Gao was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment and Zha to nine years. On September 17, 1999 the Beijing High People's Court rejected the appeals of both men. Gao will be due for release from Beijing No 2 Prison on 28 June 2007. [8 years]

He Chaohui

He Chaohui, 45, a former railway worker at the Chenzhou Railway Bureau, and vice chairperson of the Hunan Workers Autonomous Federation during the May 1989 pro democracy movement, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment in 1990 for organizing a strike by railway workers in May 1989. In 1997 and 1998, He reportedly took part in several more strikes and demonstrations and gave information on the protests to overseas human rights groups. He was also said to have been active at that time in forming a group to support the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In April 1998, the police detained He Chaohui after finding a US$300 cheque sent to him by an American university professor. This was seen as confirmation that he had provided overseas groups with information about recent workers' protests in Hunan. He was later released due to a lack of evidence, but was rearrested in May 1999 on the charge of "endangering state security (illegally providing information to foreign organizations) " After a three hour trial the following month, He was sentenced on 24 August 1999 to 10 years' imprisonment. In December 2004, He Chaohui received a one year sentence reduction, and he will be due for release from Hunan Province's Chishan Prison on 10 October 2007. [4+9 years]

Hu Mingjun

Hu Mingjun and Wang Sen, both leaders of the Sichuan provincial branch of the banned China Democratic Party (CDP), were detained by police in 2001 after they communicated with striking workers at the Dazhou Steel Mill. On 18 December 2000, about 1000 workers at the factory had organized a public demonstration demanding payment of overdue wages, and Hu and Wang subsequently made contact with the demonstrating workers. Wang, a resident of Dazhou, was arrested on 30 April 2001 and Hu, a resident of Chengdu, was arrested on 30 May. The two men were initially charged with "incitement to subvert state power" but the charges were subsequently increased to actual "subversion." On May 2002, at the Dazhou Intermediate People's Court, Hu was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment and Wang received a 10 year sentence. Hu is currently being held at Chuanzhong Prison in Gaoping District, Nanchong City, Sichuan. Wang Sen is reportedly in very poor health and has severe diabetes; he has applied for release on medical parole, so far without success. [11 years]

Hu Shigen

A former academic at the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute, Hu Shigen (also known as Hu Shenglun) was a founder in 1991 and 1992 of both the Free Labour Union of China (FLUC) and the China Liberal Democratic Party (CLDP). Arrested in May 1992 along with fifteen other unofficial trade union and party activists from the two groups, he was charged on twin counts of "organizing and leading a counterrevolutionary group" and "engaging in counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement." After two years of detention, Hu Shigen and the other members of the "Beijing Sixteen" were brought to trial in Beijing. Hu received the heaviest sentence of all - 20 years' imprisonment. He received a seven month sentence reduction in December 2005 and is now due for release on 26 October 2011. He is serving his sentence in Beijing No 2 Prison. [20 years]

Jiang Cunde

Jiang, a Shanghai native, was a worker at the Dong Xin Tool Repair Works when, in 1985 and 1986, according to the authorities, he began to advocate "imitating the model of Poland's Solidarity Trade Union to overthrow the present political powers." He reportedly also planned to establish a "China Human Rights Committee" In May 1987, Jiang and two others were convicted on charges of planning to hijack an airplane, and he was sentenced to life in prison for counterrevolution. In January 1993, after having reportedly become mentally ill, Jiang was released from Shanghai's Tilanqiao Prison on medical parole. Six years later, however, he was rearrested for allegedly having "joined a reactionary organization, written reactionary articles and sent them to news agencies, and used the occasion of the US bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade in 1999 to stir up trouble" Jiang was returned to Tilanqiao Prison in June 1999 to continue serving his life sentence. In August 2004, his sentence was commuted to 20 years' imprisonment, and he is currently due to be released in August 2024.

Although Jiang Cunde was convicted of an internationally recognized criminal offence, CLB has included him on this list of non violent detained worker activists for three reasons: 1) according to a recently published account by a released fellow prisoner from Tilanqiao, the original charge against Jiang of "hijacking an airplane" was a complete fabrication by the police; 2) the grounds officially given for Jiang's re-imprisonment in 1999 related solely to his exercise of the right to freedom of association and expression; and 3) because he has been an advocate of independent trade unionism in China since 1985. [20 years]

Kong Youping

A former official trade union official in Liaoning Province, Kong Youping was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on 16 September 2004 by the Shenyang Intermediate People's Court. Kong's colleague and co-defendant at the September 2004 trial, Ning Xianhua, was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment. Kong, 55 years old, originally worked as the union chairman at a state owned enterprise in Liaoning, but his support for protests by laid off workers and his sharp criticism of government corruption and suppression led to his dismissal from both the factory and the union. In the late 1990s, a group of political dissidents, including Kong Youping, were working to establish a branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP) in Liaoning Province, and in 1999 Kong was detained and imprisoned for a year on charges of "incitement to subvert state power." Prior to his recent arrest and trial, Kong was reportedly involved in planning the establishment of an independent union and had posted articles on the Internet criticizing official corruption and calling for a reassessment of the June 4th Massacre. The specific charges laid against Kong Youping and Ning Xianhua at their trial are not known. [1+15 years]

Li Wangyang

Li was first arrested in June 1989 and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment the following year on charges of "counter revolutionary propaganda and incitement" for founding the Shaoyang Workers' Autonomous Federation and leading workers' strikes during the May 1989 pro democracy movement. He was released in June 2000, but in February 2001, he staged a 22 day hunger strike in an attempt to obtain medical compensation for injuries to his back, heart and lungs that he had sustained while in prison, and which reportedly left him unable to walk unaided. For staging the hunger strike protest, Li was again arrested by the police. On 5 September 2001, he was tried in secret by the People's Intermediate Court of Shaoyang on the charge of "incitement to subvert state power" and sentenced to a further 10 years' imprisonment. [13+10 years]

Li Xintao

Li Xintao male, aged 53, and Kong Jun, female, aged 43, two labour rights activists from Shandong Province, were tried on May 11 2005 by the Mouping District Court in Yantai City, Shandong. They were found guilty of "disrupting government institutions" and "disturbing social order" and Kong and Li were sentenced to two and five years' imprisonment respectively (Li was reportedly detained in November 2004; the date of Kong's detention is not known.) They had organized public protests against the bankruptcy of their factory, the Huamei Garment Company, and had sent official complaints to Shandong provincial officials. According to Li and Kong, managers at the company, which declared bankruptcy in August 2002, had failed to pay the workers' wages or social insurance benefits from March 2001 onwards. Both worker activists expressed the wish to appeal against their sentences but were reportedly unable to find lawyers willing to represent them. Kong Jun was released from prison after completing her sentence. [5 years]

Liu Jian

Liu Jian, now in his early forties, and Liu Zhihua, age unknown, were both workers at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant, Hunan Province, prior to June 1989 and participated in a rowdy demonstration by over 1,000 workers from the factory just after June 4 that year to protest the government's violent suppression of the pro democracy movement. After one of their fellow workers had his arm broken by the factory's security guards, the demonstrators then allegedly ransacked the home of the security section chief. Arrested shortly afterwards, the two workers were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in either August or October 1989 on charges of "hooliganism" and "intentional injury." However, the government has not publicly produced any evidence linking either Liu Jian or Liu Zhihua to specific acts of violence or other genuine crime. Two other workers from the same factory (Chen Gang and Peng Shi) also received life sentences for their involvement in the same protest action, but the sentences were later reduced and both men were reportedly released in 2004. Liu Jian is apparently the only one of the four detained Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant workers who has still not had his life prison term reduced to a fixed term sentence. He was formerly held at the Hunan Provincial No 6 Prison (Longxi Prison), but that prison is believed to have been closed down, and his current place of detention is unknown. [Life Imprisonment]

Liu Zhihua

Formerly a worker at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant, Liu Zhihua was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1989 for taking part in a mass protest against the government's June 4 crackdown that year on the pro democracy movement. (For further details of this incident and of the specific charges brought against Liu, see above: case of Liu Jian) In September 1993, his sentence was reduced to 15 years' imprisonment with five years' subsequent deprivation of political rights, but in 1997 his sentence was extended by five years after he allegedly committed "injury with intent" in prison. His effective combined sentence then became 16 years' imprisonment (sentence to run from January 1997 to January 2013). In June 2001, Liu Zhihua's sentence was again reduced by two years, and he is now due to be released on 16 January 2011. He was formerly held at the Hunan Provincial No 6 Prison (Longxi Prison), but that prison is believed to have been closed down, and his current place of detention is unknown. [Total sentence: 22 years]

Luo Mingzhong

Born in 1953, Luo was laid off from his job at the Taiyuan Chemical Factory (part of Taiyuan Holdings), in Yibin, Sichuan Province in 2004. He led his fellow workers in fighting for proper compensation after the factory was privatized. On 22 March 2004, he was placed under administrative detention for ten days for blocking the road and obstructing traffic. In July 2005, Luo, together with fellow laid off workers Zhan Xianfu, Zhou Shaofen and Luo Huiquan led other workers to block the main factory gate in protest at the insufficient compensation offered for their loss of livelihood. Yibin Public Security officers then arrested the four leaders for allegedly "assembling to disturb public order."

In April 2006, the Cuiping District Court in Yibin convicted all four defendants on the charge of assembling to disturb public order. Luo Mingzhong and Luo Huiquan were sentenced to two years imprisonment. Zhan Xianfu was given a one and a half year prison sentence, suspended for two years. Zhou Shaofen was given a one year sentence, suspended for one year. Luo Mingzhong and Luo Huiquan filed appeals, but the Yibin Intermediate People's Court's ruling rejected their appeals and upheld the original sentences. The two imprisoned workers are due to be released in August 2007. [2 years]

Luo Huiquan

Luo, born in 1957, sentenced to two years' imprisonment. For details, see case of Luo Mingzhong (above). [2 years]

Miao Jinhong

Miao Jinhong and Ni Xiafei led a group of migrant workers in Zhejiang Province in blocking a railway line and attacking a police station to protest unpaid wages. Both men were detained in October 2000 and were subsequently tried and sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment (charges unknown). [8 years]

Ni Xiafei

Serving an 8 year prison sentence. For details, see case of Miao Jinhong (above). [8 years]

Ning Xianhua

Serving a 12 year prison sentence. For details, see case of Kong Youping (above).[12 years]

She Wanbao

She, a 49 year old Sichuan native, is a labour organizer and a member of the banned China Democratic Party (CDP). He was previously convicted of counter revolutionary propaganda and incitement by the Guangyuan Intermediate People's Court in Sichuan Province, and was sentenced on 3 November 1989 to four years' imprisonment. He was released in July 1993, but was rearrested around five years later in connection with his CDP activities. On 25 October 1999, the Sichuan Higher People's Court upheld a conviction on subversion charges against She by the Guangyuan Intermediate People's Court. He was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment, and has been held at the Chuanzhong Prison since 5 April 2000. On 9 September 2005, She's sentence was reduced by six months. He is due for release on 6 January 2011, after which his political rights will be suspended for three years. [4+11½ years]

Wang Miaogen

Wang, a manual worker in Shanghai at the time of the May 1989 pro democracy movement, was a leading member of the Shanghai Workers Autonomous Federation, which was formed that month. Detained shortly after the June 4, 1989 government crackdown, Wang then spent two and a half years in untried police detention undergoing "re education through labour" on account of his involvement in the banned workers' group. In April 1993, after he committed an act of self mutilation in front of a Shanghai police station in public protest against having recently been severely beaten up by the police, he was redetained and then forcibly incarcerated in the Shanghai Ankang Mental Hospital, a facility run by the Public Security Bureau to detain and treat "dangerously mentally ill criminals." Wang has now been held incommunicado at the Shanghai Ankang for more than 14 years. [2½ years' jail + 14 years' psychiatric detention]

Wang Sen

Serving a 10 year prison sentence. For details, see case of Hu Mingjun (above). [10 years]

Yao Fuxin

In March 2002, Yao Fuxin, a worker at the Liaoyang Steel Rolling Factory, Liaoning Province, and Xiao Yunliang, a former worker at the Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory, led around 2,000 workers from the latter factory, along with a further 15,000 workers from five other factories in Liaoyang, in a series of major public demonstrations The workers were protesting against alleged corrupt activities by managers at the Ferroalloy Factory, activities that they argued had directly caused its recent bankruptcy, and calling for unpaid wages and other owed benefits, including pensions, to be paid to the laid off workers. After the factory was declared bankrupt in early 2002, local workers had founded the "All Liaoyang Bankrupt and Unemployed Workers' Provisional Union" and elected Yao Fuxin as their spokesperson to conduct negotiations with the local government.

In late March 2002, Yao Fuxin, who is now 56 years old, and Xiao, now 61 years old, were secretly detained and formally charged with the crime of "illegal assembly and demonstration." Subsequently, on account of their alleged involvement in the banned China Democracy Party (CDP) - Yao and Xiao themselves have consistently denied any such involvement - the much more serious charge of "subversion" was brought against them. Tried at the Liaoyang Intermediate People's Court on 15 January 2003, Yao was sentenced to seven years in prison and will be due for release in March 2009. Xiao received a four year sentence, and was released from prison on 23 February 2006. Both men had been plagued by serious health problems throughout their imprisonment, and according to Yao Fuxin's family, who visit him regularly, his current health situation at Lingyuan No 2 Prison remains very poor. [7 years]

Yue Tianxiang

In 1995, Yue Tianxiang, a driver at the state owned Tianshui City Transport Company, Gansu Province, was laid off from his job despite being owed three months' back pay. When the company refused to negotiate a settlement regarding their wage arrears and to provide them with a legally due living allowance, Yue and another laid off driver, Guo Xinmin, decided to take their case to the Tianshui Labour Disputes Arbitration Committee. The Committee ruled that the company should find new positions for the two workers as soon as possible, but the company manager refused to implement this decision. When Yue and Guo learned that many of their fellow drivers in Tianshui faced the same kind of treatment, they set up a journal called China Labour Monitor and used it to publish articles on various labour rights related issues, including reports of corruption at their former company. They also wrote an open letter to President Jiang Zemin asking for the central government to take action on these issues. In late 1998, after receiving no response from the authorities, they distributed their letter to the international news media.

A few weeks later, in January 1999, they were detained by the Tianshui police and were eventually charged with "subversion of state power." On 5 July 1999, Yue Tianxiang was tried and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. Yue received a one year sentence reduction in March 2005 and is due for release on January 8, 2008. (His fellow activist Guo Xinmin was also sentenced at the same time, but he was freed from prison around one year later.) [10 years]

Zha Jianguo

Serving a 9 year sentence. See case of Gao Hongming (above) for details. [9 years]

Zhang Shanguang

Labour activist Zhang Shanguang, formerly a secondary school teacher, was first sentenced to seven years imprisonment after the June 4, 1989 government crackdown for his role in organizing the Hunan Workers' Autonomous Federation in May of that year. While in prison, he contracted severe tuberculosis. After his release, in early 1998, Zhang was interviewed by several overseas radio stations about widespread labor and peasant unrest in his home county of Xupu. He also gathered supporters for, and attempted to officially register with the authorities, a labour rights group that he had recently founded, the Association to Protect the Rights and Interests of Laid Off Workers (APRILW). By July 1998, this association had attracted more than 300 members from all walks of life, including workers, peasants, intellectuals and cadres, and even some local officials were initially supportive of the group's aims.

On July 21, 1998, the police detained Zhang, searched his home and confiscated all documents and correspondence relating to APRILW. Zhang's wife, He Xuezhu, was questioned and threatened by the police, who also urged her to divorce her husband. His many supporters in Xupu County rose swiftly to his defense, writing numerous appeals and even staging hunger strikes demanding his release. According to one such appeal letter, "The work of Zhang Shanguang will surely encourage the people of Hunan and the whole country to wage an even wider scale struggle to win democracy and freedom." Subsequently charged on the twin counts of "passing intelligence to hostile overseas organizations" and "incitement to subvert state power," Zhang was tried on 27 December 1998 and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. His tuberculosis has continued to worsen and he is reportedly in very poor medical condition. [7+10 years]

Zhao Changqing

Zhao, now 39 years old, was first arrested in June 1989 and detained for four months at Qincheng Prison, Beijing, for having organized a Students' Autonomous Committee at the Shaanxi Normal University during the pro democracy movement in May that year. He was arrested again in 1998 while teaching at a school affiliated with the Shaanxi Hanzhong Nuclear Industry Factory 813, after attempting to stand for election as a factory representative to the National People's Congress and publicly criticizing the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) for failing to defend workers interests. In an open letter to his fellow factory workers, dated 11 January 1998, Zhao wrote: "You should treasure your democratic rights Even if I cannot run as a formal candidate, if you believe I am capable of representing you and of struggling for your interests, then I ask you to write in my name on the ballot. If elected, I will be worthy of your trust and will demonstrate my loyalty to you through my actions."

Before the workers' ballots could be cast on January 14, Zhao was secretly detained by the police on suspicion of "endangering state security." In July that year, he was tried at the Hanzhong City Intermediate People's Court on charges of "subversion" and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. After his release, in early November 2002, Zhao drafted and circulated an open letter to the National People's Congress demanding, among other things, an official reassessment of the 1989 pro democracy movement and the release of all political prisoners. In due course, 192 other political dissidents signed the letter, thereby attracting widespread international attention to what was the most significant political action by Chinese dissidents in recent years. In December 2002, Zhao Changqing was arrested by police for the third time and was later sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment for "incitement to subvert state power." Zhao has reportedly been held in solitary confinement for refusing to take part in military training and having contact with detained Falun Gong practitioners. [3 + 5 years]


Shao Liangchen, a leading member of the Jinan Workers Autonomous Federation, which was formed in Shandong Province during the May 1989 nationwide pro democracy movement, reportedly died of leukemia in late 2004 shortly after being released on medical parole from Weihu Prison, Shandong. He had been serving a 17 year prison sentence for allegedly having resisted the military crackdown on 4 June 1989. Originally sentenced to death by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Shao's sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment, and then eventually to 17 years' imprisonment. CLB only learned of Shao's death recently, so he was listed as "currently imprisoned" in our 4 June 2006 list of detained Chinese labour activists. His death has not been officially confirmed.


Ding Xiulan and Liu Meifeng

Ding and Liu, both workers at the Zhongheng Textile Factory in Funing County, Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, reportedly led laid off factory workers to stage protests at the factory's entrance and demand reasonable compensation following the privatization of the former state owned enterprise. After receiving no response from the company, on 2 October 2004 Ding and Liu then led several hundred workers to demonstrate outside the Yancheng City government building in an attempt to get the local government to intervene with the company on the workers' behalf. On 20 October, both Ding and Liu were arrested for "assembling to disturb social order." There has been no further news of their fate since then. [Sentence unknown]

Zhu Fangming

In May 1989, Zhu, then a 28 year old worker at the Hengyang City (Hunan Province) Flour Factory and vice chairman of the Hengyang City Workers Autonomous Federation, organized demonstrations and took part in a sit in protest in front of the municipal government offices After the June 4 crackdown that year, he allegedly led workers to the municipal Public Security Bureau to denounce the repression and demand justice. According to a report in the Hunan Daily, Zhu was arrested and then sentenced in December 1989 by the Hengyang City Intermediate People's Court to life imprisonment on a charge of "hooliganism." He is believed to be currently held in Hengyang Prison (Hunan Provincial No 2 Prison). In October 2005, the Chinese government maintained that Zhu "was never punished for his activities in 1989 and it stated that he is once again working at Hengyang's Xihu Flour Factory. This information conflicts, however, with the original sentencing report in Hunan Daily. [Life Imprisonment?]


Du Hongqi

Presumed released in November 2006, following completion of a three year prison sentence on the charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb social order." Du Hongqi and his wife, Li Tingying, both workers at an armaments factory in Chongqing, Sichuan, run by the South China Industries Group, were detained for independent trade union organizing activities on 24 November 2003. The Chongqing No.338 Factory was going bankrupt and had been taken over by another enterprise, and 700 of the 1500 factory workers were then laid off. Du and Li had founded an unofficial trade union in September 2003 to fight for better working conditions and had organized their fellow workers to carry out several petition and protest actions. (Li Tingying was also detained by police in late 2003, but she was subsequently released without being tried or sentenced ).

Kong Jun

Released in late 2006 or early 2007. For details, see case of Li Xintao, above.

Liao Shihua

Liao Shihua, now 57 years old, released on 5 June 2005 after completing a six year prison sentence. A worker at the Changsha Automobile Electronics Factory, Hunan Province, in October 1998 Liao led a mass protest action against corruption at the factory and calling for proper health care coverage and housing benefits for the factory's retired and laid off workers. In June 1999, Liao joined with more than 100 laid off workers to stage a demonstration in front of the Hunan provincial government headquarters, demanding a resolution to the area's unemployment problems. After addressing the crowd, Liao was escorted away by an unknown person and then officially detained on grounds of "inciting the masses to attack a government office." On 7 July 1999, he was formally charged with "conspiring to subvert state power" and "assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic," and he was subsequently tried and sentenced to six years' imprisonment.

Xiao Yunliang

For details, see case of Yao Fuxin, above. Xiao Yunliang, a leader of the March 2002 mass worker protest movement in Liaoyang City, Liaoning, was released on 23 February 2006, just 24 days before his prison sentence was due to end. Like his fellow detained labour leader, Yao Fuxin, he suffered serious health problems throughout his imprisonment, and his health situation has remained poor since his release. Xiao is partially blind and is suffering from various illnesses including chronic respiratory disease.

Yang Jianli

A US based research scholar and political dissident, Yang participated in the Tiananmen Square pro democracy movement in 1989; his name was on a 1994 PRC police blacklist of 49 Chinese pro democracy activists who were barred from re entering China. Yang Jianli entered China in April 2002 by using a friend's passport, as part of a plan to try and investigate the rapidly growing labour unrest situation in the cities of Shenyang, Liaoyang and Daqing in northeastern China. He was detained on 26 April 2002 and officially arrested by the Beijing State Security Bureau on 28 April 2002. He was then held in incommunicado detention for the next 15 months (well beyond the legally permitted maximum period for pre trial detention). On 13 May 2004, Yang was tried in a closed court hearing on charges of "espionage" and "illegal entry," and was sentenced to a term of five years' imprisonment. He was released in April 2007.

China Labour Bulletin // PO Box 11362 // General Post Office // Hong Kong SAR // Telephone: +852 2780 2187 // Fax: +852 2359 4324 // www clb org hk

Forced & child labour in Shanxi brickworks

2, 400 hundred children sold as ‘slaves’ to illegal brick works factories in Shanxi, China

6th June 2007

[Original article in Chinese. Title translation, and following summary of the article's key points, provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.] published an open petition letter on June 6 from a group of 400 parents, striving to retrieve their lost sons, who had been captured as forced labourers in many notorious brick works factories in Shanxi, China. The children were lured or kidnapped at public locations in Zhengzhou, Henan Province such as train stations, bus stops and on the road side.

They were each sold for around 500 yuan (about US$62) to work in the Shanxi brick factories, known as “dark factories”. When the parents visited the illegal brick factories in Linfen and Yongji cities of Shanxi, where most of the "dark factories" are located, they were stunned by what they found. The youngest of these children is aged 8. The children’s hair has not been cut for months or maybe years. Some have been held for over 7 years.

Some have become disabled because of brutal beatings when caught trying to escape. Many have had their backs seriously burnt when they were forced to carry red-hot bricks on their backs. Slow or sick workers are beaten in order to ‘catch up with productivity’. Sick and injured workers are not hospitalized or even given any treatment.

All workers are held under round-the-clock surveillance by supervisors and guards. In the past two months, these parents have been able to save more than 40 children from those factories. However, still hundreds are in the hands of the "dark factories". The parents sought help from village, county and city officials from police and labour departments, only to find indifference and red tape.

Many Shanxi officials said since the children were missing in Henan and thus they should be dealt with in Henan. In one case of an assault that lead to a permanent disability, the official released the perpetrator due to lack of evidence. That led many to suspect collusion between officials and the owners.

China: A thousand children sold to ‘dark kilns’ in

Shanxi, Wu Yong,

13th Jun 2007

The petition letter written by 400 parents of the children sold as captive workers to the "dark kilns" in Shanxi (see above) raised grave concerns all over China, especially on internet forums. After the letter being published for 5 days on the internet, it has received more than half a million hits. Many posts in forums expressed anger and shock. Many referred the poor children as modern-day "baoshengong", meaning indentured labourers, and termed the "dark kilns" in Shanxi as the ‘Garden of Masters in Slavery’.

As a result, Zhengzhou police on June 9 started a one-month campaign against abduction and forced labour and set up an information system for all missing / abducted persons in the municipality. On the same day, Henan police also conducted an operation on "Abduction and forced labour". The authorities have said they will impose heavy punishment on unlawful detention, purposeful torture, forced labour and child labour. Henan police reported the incidents to the Public Security Bureau in order to foster collaboration from their Shanxi counterpart.

Henan TV journalist Fu Zhengzhong went to visit Shanxi three times, and witnessed the parents saving 40 of the children. Fu admitted that the main obstacle was the non-collaboration of law enforcement departments, and even illegal acts by a minority of them.

He quoted the example of Zhu Guang-hui. As Zhu was released from a Yongji brick works factory, the Shanxi Labour Monitor Department in turn sold Zhu to another brick works factory. A Labour Monitor official by the name of Feng even took the 300 yuan wage released to Zhu. Fu believes the number of child labourers working in Shanxi ‘dark kilns’ is close to 1,000.

Update on Chinese minerals companies abroad: Peru, Kenya, Burma, US, India:

Chinalco purchases 34 pct stake in Peru Copper

The Aluminum Corporation of China (Chinalco), has entered into a definitive agreement with Peru Copper Inc. in which Chinalco will acquire a 34 percent stake in Peru Copper for CAD $840 million ($791.30 million).

Xiao Yaqing, President of Chinalco, commented that: "The project is an important part of Chinalco's 'going out' policy to expand operations in other countries, and will also grant us the opportunity to advance the Toromocho Project. We look forward to identifying further investment opportunities in Peru and around the world," Xiao added.

According to Beijing Antaike Information analyst, Li Yusheng: “…Chinalco has long been attempting to get its hands on copper assets. [It] has already acquired several copper smelters and fabricators, including Dayi Nonferrous Metals Co. Ltd. and Luoyang Copper and Shanghai Nonferrous Metals Co. Ltd…”

The Toromocho Project will be Chinalco's first copper mine project. The Toromocho Project, located in central Peru's Morococha mining district, is a potentially open pit, porphyry copper mineral deposit. In June 2003, Peru Copper entered into agreement with Empresa Minera del Centro del Peru S.A. (Centromin), a Peruvian state-owned mining company, to acquire the Toromocho Project.

Chalco is the second largest alumina refiner and one of the largest primary aluminum producers in the world. The company produced 1.93 million tons of aluminum and 8.83 million tons of alumina in 2006. Chalco is listed on the New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges.

Jinchuan to increase stake in Tiomin for Kenyan titanium project

Jinchuan Group Ltd. is increasing its stake in Toronto-listed Tiomin Resources Inc. to 20 percent through investing an additional CAD $10.9 million ($10.21 million), according to a Tiomin announcement released on June 12. The investment will be used to fund the company's titanium project in Kenya.

Jinchuan has also been granted an 18-month option to increase its stake in Tiomin to 30 percent by subscribing to additional shares at a per-share-price of CAD $0.35 ($0.33), which, if exercised, would generate an additional CAD $17 million ($15.9 million) in cash resources for Tiomin.

Jinchuan is China's largest producer of nickel, cobalt and platinum, specialising in mining, smelting, refining and chemical engineering.

Jinchuan's other African project is the Munali Nickel Mine in Zambia, which is a joint-venture project with Albidon Ltd., an Australia and London-listed mining company. Jinchuan is currently planning to construct a nickel smelting plant for the Munali project, pending feasibility study results.

CNMC's nickel mine project still awaiting Burmese government approval

China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group Co. Ltd. (CNMC) is still awaiting Burmese government approval for its Tagaung Taung nickel mine project, a CNMC official told Interfax on June 12.

The mine is located in the northern Burmese province of Mandalay and contains approximately 40 million tons of lateritic nickel ore, at an average nickel content of 2.02 percent. The mine also contains nickel silicate-associated chromite, according to information provided by the Burmese government's Ministry of Mines.

"Construction was initially scheduled to commence in September 2007. However, this is all dependent on when we gain Burmese government approval, which may not be till the end of the year," Li said.

A CNMC press department official, surnamed Wang, expressed concern that Burmese government approval might not be forthcoming due to the current high nickel price.

The Tagaung Taung nickel mine has a planned investment of $600 million and is designed to have an output of 22,000 tons of nickel and 85,000 tons of ferronickel per annum, according to Li.

CNMC holds a 75 percent stake in the Tagaung Taung nickel mine and Burma No. 3 Mining Company holds the remaining 25 percent along with mine exploration rights.

Baoji Titanium signs $130 mln titanium contract with Boeing

On June 9th, Shanghai-listed Baoji Titanium Co. Ltd., China's largest titanium product manufacturer signed a RMB 1 billion ($130.23 million) three-year titanium product contract with U.S.-based aircraft maker Boeing Friday, according to a Baoji Titanium announcement last Saturday.

According to the contract, Baoji Titanium will supply 4,300 tons of titanium products to Boeing between 2007 and 2009. The total value of the contract is estimated to be in excess of RMB 1 billion ($130.23 million), according to the statement released Saturday.

Baoji Titanium will supply Boeing with 780 tons of titanium products in 2007.

Baoji Titanium recently signed a titanium product deal with U.S.-based Goodrich Corporation, one of the world's largest aerospace companies.

The company will provide at least 1,000 tons of titanium products to Goodrich between 2007 and 2021.

Moreover, Baoji Titanium has also become a stable titanium product supplier to Airbus.

Baosteel continues negotiations with Visa Steel for Indian joint venture

Shanghai Baoshan Iron and Steel Group (Baosteel Group) is continuing negotiations with Indian steel company, Visa Steel Ltd., for a possible ferrochrome joint venture in India, an industry source told Interfax on June 12.

The ferrochrome plant is located in the town of Kalinganagar, in the Indian state of Orissa, and is expected to reach an annual capacity of 100,000 tons.

Visa Steel, which is listed on both the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India, specializes in the production of alloy steel and carbon steel. The company has an annual output of 1.5 million tons of steel products.

Visa Steel is currently constructing an integrated Special and Stainless Steel Plant at the Kalinganagar Industrial Complex in Orissa and also plans to set up integrated steel plants in other mineral-rich Indian states, such as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, according to the company's Web site.

[source: Interfax China Metals, 15 June 2007]

Alcan to construct an aluminum-alloy cable manufacturing facility in Tianjin

Alcan Inc., the world's second largest aluminum producer, plans to construct an aluminum-alloy cable product manufacturing facility in China's Tianjin Municipality, according to a company announcement on June 12.

Alcan also says it aims to expand its Chinese presence in the future, by launching further aluminum processing facilities in cooperation with Chinese partners.

Alcan holds 50 percent stake in a joint venture with Ningxia Qingtongxia Aluminum Group, named Jianing Aluminum. The joint venture has a production capacity of 150,000 tons of electrolytic aluminum per annum.

[source: Interfax China Metals, 15 June 2007]


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