残酷的讽刺:中共正在铲除工人运动

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

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

Eli Friedman是康纳尔大学国际及比较劳工研究助理教授。Aaron Halegua是纽约大学法律学院美亚法律研究所的研究学人。Jerome A. Cohen是美亚法律研究所主任,同时是美国外交关系协会的亚洲区兼任高级研究员。

春天时他们去了抓女权主义者,夏天时去了抓维权律师。到了12月3日,中国「宪法日」的前夕,中国官方在工业重地广东省发起了广泛的行动对付工人运动人士。

由20年前中国的劳工NGO出现起,他们恒常受到打压和滋扰,包括税务审计、黑帮暴力和国安人员的不断问话。但最近的这次打压更为严重。似乎中国共产党有意把公民社会中的工人运动一举歼灭。

这次打压行动中,数十人被警察藉问话为名作出恐吓,其中七人,包括广东省著名劳工NGO的领袖曾飞洋,被刑事拘留。他们的律师与当事人见面的要求被拒绝。这些劳权人士据报导是以「聚众扰乱社会秩序」为名拘捕,被指鼓励甚至诱骗工人提出不合理的要求和采取极端手段。

警察的不公义行径完全是捉错了重点。劳资纠纷在中国近年的确急速增长,野猫式罢工、堵路以至暴动已经司空见惯。但工人罢工的原因是劳工法例没有落实,他们 又没有有效地解决集体纠纷的合法途径——而不是被NGO人员因为不明的动机煽动。例如,在被官方媒体说成曾飞洋罪证的利得鞋厂罢工中,工人因为雇主长期违 反法定要求为没有支付社会保障供款和其他费用,又得知雇主计划搬厂后才发起行动。纠纷不是NGO煽动而起。

事实上,劳工NGO在排解这些纠纷上有积极的角色。中国的雇主常以漠视工人的要求并通知官员的方式来「处理」罢工,而官员愈加倾向派出警察对付工人和扣留 罢工领袖。相反,在利得罢工事件中,劳工NGO 为工人提出建议,帮助他们整理诉求,推举代表并与雇主进行集体协商,以解决引起纠纷的违规行为,有时他们甚至帮助了双方达成协议,决定处理日后争议的机 制。

后来利得的拥有人同意补交过期的社会保险供款,把部份工人调职至新厂,支付其他工人的遣散费,而且与工人继续协商。这种有组织的劳资集体协商,与工人罢工和警察镇压的无限轮回相比,更有可能达致中国追求的「和谐劳资关系」。

不幸的是,目前的拘捕行动显示,比起良好的劳工关系政策,当局更关心完全的控制。NGO被视为对国家权力和雇主利益的威胁。政府声称他们想改善工人的权益,但他们毫无意愿让公民社会在当中担当任何角色。

因此,当局除广泛的问话和就怀疑煽动工人作出行政拘留外,还采取了其他手段。官方传媒发起了激烈的行动来抹黑曾飞洋——包括指控婚外情和挪用公款作私人用途。此外,全国各地的劳工NGO人员报称被滋扰,被滋扰的对象更包括了他们的家人。

问题部份是由被国家控制的全国总工会(全总)是唯一有权代表和为工人发言的机构,但事实上却极少做任何事。不同于劳工NGO,全总绝少协助被剥削的工人, 或是要求雇主遵守法律。这与中共把工会视为在工人和雇主之间维稳的力量有关。更甚者,雇主经常在公司的层面对工会有不当的影响力。因此,工人并不信任工 会,这为真正为工人争取权益人提供了空间——劳工NGO本来正在填补这空间。

但是中国官方并不打算承认公民社会的正面贡献。公民社会组织普遍被视为威胁。收取外国的资金更尤其被视为不轨意图的表征。无论NGO的行动对国家的稳定和正当性多么无害甚至有帮助,这种看法也没有改变。

假如中国政府认真地想改善劳资关系,他们应该要求工会向这些劳工NGO的领袖学习。相反,他们却决定发起行动滋扰、抹黑和扣留这些为中国职场和社会的法治和公义牺牲的人。这样的结果是更多的违法行为、更多纠纷和更多打压。

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.