Scholars’ comment on the suppression of labor NGOs in China

《Dr. Tim Pringle, Senior Lecturer, SOAS, University of London》

Employers and governments are usually quite happy for civil society organisations to act as service providers. It eases budgetary pressures on state and capital welfare responsibilities and tends to commodify services that should really be provided as rights.

But when civil society organisations and individuals act as activists and organisers working with ordinary people in pursuit of such rights, the reaction of those in power can be very different. The recent repression and detentions of Labour NGO activists in Guangdong province is an example.

Those targeted in the repression are not content to act simply as service providers. In their daily contact with workers chasing unpaid wages, unpaid social insurance premiums, compensation for injury or a decent wage rise, the LNGO activists deploy a collective approach focused on bringing people together based on common interests. They reject the individualised fragmentary strategies that employers use to divide and weaken us. Instead, the now detained labour activists promote the solidarity and accountability of collective bargaining and negotiation. And they are good at it!

The detention and intimidation of LNGOs and their supporters is no way to develop an effective labour relations framework capable of upholding the right and interests of China’s workers. Removing these people serves the interests of employers and those in the government only concerned, for whatever reason, in creating a capital-friendly environment: a space in which the business of accumulation can continue unfettered by collective representation of the very people who create wealth – workers.

We must work together to secure the release of all LNGO staff and supporters unjustly detained.