殘酷的諷刺:中共正在鏟除工人運動

(Please scroll down for the original article at Washington Post)

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作者為Eli Friedman、Aaron Halegua及Jerome A. Cohen

Eli Friedman是康納爾大學國際及比較勞工研究助理教授。Aaron Halegua是紐約大學法律學院美亞法律研究所的研究學人。Jerome A. Cohen是美亞法律研究所主任,同時是美國外交關係協會的亞洲區兼任高級研究員。

春天時他們去了抓女權主義者,夏天時去了抓維權律師。到了12月3日,中國「憲法日」的前夕,中國官方在工業重地廣東省發起了廣泛的行動對付工人運動人士。

由20年前中國的勞工NGO出現起,他們恆常受到打壓和滋擾,包括稅務審計、黑幫暴力和國安人員的不斷問話。但最近的這次打壓更為嚴重。似乎中國共產黨有意把公民社會中的工人運動一舉殲滅。

這次打壓行動中,數十人被警察藉問話為名作出恐嚇,其中七人,包括廣東省著名勞工NGO的領袖曾飛洋,被刑事拘留。他們的律師與當事人見面的要求被拒絕。這些勞權人士據報導是以「聚眾擾亂社會秩序」為名拘捕,被指鼓勵甚至誘騙工人提出不合理的要求和採取極端手段。

警察的不公義行徑完全是捉錯了重點。勞資糾紛在中國近年的確急速增長,野貓式罷工、堵路以至暴動已經司空見慣。但工人罷工的原因是勞工法例沒有落實,他們 又沒有有效地解決集體糾紛的合法途徑——而不是被NGO人員因為不明的動機煽動。例如,在被官方媒體說成曾飛洋罪證的利得鞋廠罷工中,工人因為僱主長期違 反法定要求為沒有支付社會保障供款和其他費用,又得知僱主計劃搬廠後才發起行動。糾紛不是NGO煽動而起。

事實上,勞工NGO在排解這些糾紛上有積極的角色。中國的僱主常以漠視工人的要求並通知官員的方式來「處理」罷工,而官員愈加傾向派出警察對付工人和扣留 罷工領袖。相反,在利得罷工事件中,勞工NGO 為工人提出建議,幫助他們整理訴求,推舉代表並與僱主進行集體協商,以解決引起糾紛的違規行為,有時他們甚至幫助了雙方達成協議,決定處理日後爭議的機 制。

後來利得的擁有人同意補交過期的社會保險供款,把部份工人調職至新廠,支付其他工人的遣散費,而且與工人繼續協商。這種有組織的勞資集體協商,與工人罷工和警察鎮壓的無限輪迴相比,更有可能達致中國追求的「和諧勞資關係」。

不幸的是,目前的拘捕行動顯示,比起良好的勞工關係政策,當局更關心完全的控制。NGO被視為對國家權力和僱主利益的威脅。政府聲稱他們想改善工人的權益,但他們毫無意願讓公民社會在當中擔當任何角色。

因此,當局除廣泛的問話和就懷疑煽動工人作出行政拘留外,還採取了其他手段。官方傳媒發起了激烈的行動來抹黑曾飛洋——包括指控婚外情和挪用公款作私人用途。此外,全國各地的勞工NGO人員報稱被滋擾,被滋擾的對象更包括了他們的家人。

問題部份是由被國家控制的全國總工會(全總)是唯一有權代表和為工人發言的機構,但事實上卻極少做任何事。不同於勞工NGO,全總絕少協助被剝削的工人, 或是要求僱主遵守法律。這與中共把工會視為在工人和僱主之間維穩的力量有關。更甚者,僱主經常在公司的層面對工會有不當的影響力。因此,工人並不信任工 會,這為真正為工人爭取權益人提供了空間——勞工NGO本來正在填補這空間。

但是中國官方並不打算承認公民社會的正面貢獻。公民社會組織普遍被視為威脅。收取外國的資金更尤其被視為不軌意圖的表徵。無論NGO的行動對國家的穩定和正當性多麼無害甚至有幫助,這種看法也沒有改變。

假如中國政府認真地想改善勞資關係,他們應該要求工會向這些勞工NGO的領袖學習。相反,他們卻決定發起行動滋擾、抹黑和扣留這些為中國職場和社會的法治和公義犧牲的人。這樣的結果是更多的違法行為、更多糾紛和更多打壓。

Cruel irony: China’s Communists are stamping out labor activism

January 3

Eli Friedman is assistant professor of international and comparative labor at Cornell University. Aaron Halegua is a research scholar of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at New York University School of Law. Jerome A. Cohen is director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute and an adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

They came for the feminists in the spring. In the summer, they came for the rights-defense lawyers. And on Dec. 3, the eve of China’s Constitution Day, Chinese authorities initiated a widespread crackdown on labor activists in the industrial powerhouse of Guangdong province.

Since they first appeared 20 years ago, China’s labor nongovernmental organizations have suffered regular rounds of repression and harassment, including tax audits, mafia violence and continual interrogation by security officials. But this most recent repression is more serious. It seems that the Communist Party is intent on stamping out labor activism in civil society once and for all.

In this campaign, dozens of individuals have been intimidated through police interrogations, and seven, including Zeng Feiyang, the well-known leader of a Guangzhou labor group, have been detained on criminal charges. Their lawyers’ requests to meet with them have been denied. These activists are reportedly being held for “assembling crowds to disrupt social order,” allegedly encouraging or even tricking workers into making unreasonable demands and taking extreme actions.

These unjust police measures completely miss the point. Labor conflict in China has indeed been growing rapidly in recent years, with wildcat strikes, road blockades and even riots becoming regular occurrences. But workers are striking because labor laws are not enforced and there are no effective means for legally resolving collective disputes — not because workers are being duped by NGOs with unspecified ulterior motives. For instance, in the Lide Footwear Factory strike, which state media has spotlighted as evidence of Zeng’s guilt, workers protested their employer’s long-term failure to make legally required social security and other payments after learning of plans to relocate the factory. NGOs did not provoke this conflict.

In fact, labor NGOs play a productive role in resolving such disputes. Chinese employers often “handle” strikes by ignoring workers’ demands and contacting the authorities, who increasingly send in police to rough up workers and detain strike leaders. By contrast, as in the Lide case, labor NGOs advise strikers on how to formulate their demands, elect representatives and engage in collective negotiations with employers to resolve the underlying violations, and sometimes even assist in reaching agreements governing future relations.

Indeed, Lide’s owners eventually agreed to make overdue social security contributions, relocate some workers, pay severance to others and continue talking with workers. Such organized collective negotiations between employers and employees are far more likely to achieve the “harmonious labor relations” China seeks than a continuous cycle of worker protest and police repression.

Unfortunately, the current criminal detentions are more about government insistence on exclusive control than good labor- relations policy. NGOs are viewed as threatening state power as well as the interests of employers. The government claims it wants to promote the rights and interests of workers, but it is simply unwilling to allow civil society to play any role in this process.

This is why it has even gone beyond mass interrogations and criminal detentions for allegedly inciting workers. State television has been broadcasting an intense smear campaign — including claims of marital infidelity and embezzling organizational funds for personal use — to publicly discredit Zeng. Moreover, labor activists nationwide report heightened harassment of not only themselves but also family members.

Part of the problem is that the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions claims an absolute monopoly on representing and advocating for China’s workers, but in reality does little of either. Unlike the labor NGOs, it seldom assists exploited workers or pushes employers to comply with the law. This stems largely from the Communist Party’s conception of the trade union as a “harmonizing” force between employers and workers. What’s more, employers typically exert undue control over unions at the company level. Workers therefore do not trust trade unions, creating a vacuum for someone to actually promote their interests — which labor NGOs began to fill.

But recognition of civil- society actors’ positive contributions is not in Chinese authorities’ current playbook. Civil- society groups are generally seen as threats. Receiving foreign funds is especially deemed to imply sinister motives. This remains true regardless of how innocuous, or even helpful, NGO activities may be in promoting the stability and legitimacy of the regime.

If the government were serious about improving labor relations, it would require trade unions to learn from these NGO leaders. Instead, it has decided on a campaign to harass, shame and imprison people who are striving to make Chinese workplaces and society more lawful and just. The result will be greater lawlessness, conflict and repression.