《The Xinhua News Agency published a long article to discredit the labour NGOs》
The 23rd of Dec is the 21st day since the arrest of the labour activists in Guangdong. A legal support group has been formed by more than 60 lawyers. However, the authorities still have not allowed the detained activists to meet their lawyers or relatives. This obviously violates the activists’ basic human rights. The government has started a smear campaign to discredit the detained activists and the labour NGOs. The official Xinhua News Agency published a long article on 22nd Dec. The title of the article is “‘Exposing the reality behind the fame of the ‘star’ of the labour movement’: ZENG Feiyang and others are under investigation because of suspected involvement in serious crimes”. The article was also published on many official media and websites.
The article focuses on the Lide Shoes Factory strike. When ZENG Feiyang and Panyu Worker Service Centre contributed a lot to the strike and the strike is understood as a successful case in the academia. The article cited interview with several workers’ representatives who were actually recalled through democratic means during the strike. They claimed that ZENG encouraged the workers to defend their rights through radical means. The article also cited allegations made by Cai, who is described as a long-term informer and who had left the Service Centre a few years ago. Cai alleged that ZENG had received financial subsidies from foreign sources and he was also alleged of various accounts of financial mismanagement including embezzlement and tax evasion. The article also reported that a staff at the Service Center named TANG Huanxin (who may actually be TANG Jin, the labour activist who has disappeared since the crackdown) was also determined to discredit ZENG. He suggested that ZENG was the sole authority who could decide on matters regarding the activities of the Service Centre and also served as the leader of the staff at the Centre. The report also included a few paragraphs on the private life of ZENG. Those matters are of course irrelevant to ZENG’s case and his work to help workers defend their rights.
Although the report attempted to discredit the labour activists and the labour NGOs, there is no evidence that could prove ZENG had committed the crime of ‘gathering crowds to disrupt public order’. The article also failed to reveal any problems of other detained labour activists. While the report claimed that Cai was affiliated to the Service Centre, informants who are familiar with the labour NGO scene told us that this was not the case.
Many workers who have received help from ZENG Feiyang and the Service Centre responded to the article. On Weixin, the following message is posted : ‘As a worker who took part in the strike at Nansha Liansheng Mould Factory, I must state clearly that the police is simply making things up!’ An open letter signed by more than 1000 workers in support of ZENG Feiyang after he was physically assaulted by gang members on 26 December 2014 also began to circulate on the internet again. It is likely that the authorities will do more to discredit the labour NGOs and attempt to divide the labour activists.