Saturday, 20 February 2010

Chinese New Year: be tigerish for human rights!

The Chinese New Year began on 14 February. The main celebrations in London take place tomorrow, there are some details on the Visit London website.

These events are a lot of fun, but I can't enjoy them properly without a bit of politicking! It's my annual custom with some friends from the No Sweat campaign to go along and leaflet to raise awareness of the treatment of trade unionists in China. I say trade unionists, in fact, the official trade unions tend to be adjuncts of the state; No Sweat raises support for those people trying to set up independent unions. People like:

Chen Yuping 陳玉平 - sentenced to one and a half years of re-education through labour, for "disturbing social order". His crime, organising an independent trade union in the Jilin state-owned petroleum corporation.

Li Wangyang 李旺陽 - sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in 1990 for founding the Shaoyang Workers' Autonomous Federation and leading strikes during the May 1989 pro-democracy movement. Released in 2000, in February 2001 he staged a 22-day hunger strike for medical compensation for injuries he had sustained while in prison. Li was again arrested by the police. In September 2001, he was tried in secret on the charge of "incitement to subvert state power" and sentenced to a further 10 years' imprisonment.

Ning Xianhua 寧先華 - a construction worker in Shenyang, Liaoning province, sentenced in September 2004 to 12 years’ imprisonment for “subversion of state power” for organising an independent trade union.
You can read about cases like this on the China Labour Bulletin website, based in Hong Kong.

Our campaign is usually well received; we always make the point as well that the London mayor uses the event to schmooze big business and the Chinese embassy, politely turning a blind eye to the manifold human rights abuses that go on in China.

I understand this is one topic Barnet mayor Brian Coleman and I might agree on. He espouses freedom for Falun Gong and Tibetan independence, but I don't think his dislike of totalitarianism would extend to supporting free trade unions... would it?!

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