A group of workers of Shenzhen Jasic Technology Co., Ltd organized to exercise their right to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining and setting up their own trade union according to the legal procedures. However, they ended up detained and accused by the company’s management of illegally setting up a union. The worker representatives were illegally dismissed and continuously suppressed and threatened by the company and the police. At the end of July, the authorities arrested over 30 people, including workers and students who supported the workers. They were in criminal detention as suspects for the crime of “stirring up trouble”. Still 14 of the 30 arrested workers are detained.

The workers suffer from the company’s illegal behavior: illegal last-minute adjustment of employees’ schedules, an illegal system of fines, underpayment of employees’ housing funds, and the illegal compilation of a blacklist divulging employees’ information.

After filing a complaint on these issues at the Pingshan Department of Human Resources and the Pingshan Federation of Trade Unions (PFTU), they were advised to organize a union and develop its membership. The Jasic workers had acted in accordance with both the law and instructions by the PFTU in organizing a union to address an industrial dispute. Yet the company and the police disregarded their legal demands, using illegal and violent measures to obstruct the workers’ legal right to organize and participate in union activity.

Supporters of the workers face harassment

Last month students and graduates from more than a dozen mainland Chines universities stood up in solidarity support with the workers. Scholars started a petition addressed to the Shenzhen Government and Federation of Trade Unions and participated in solidarity actions. But also the supporting team has been facing intensive harassment and great threat from the national security and police force. Shen Mengyu, the leader of the supporting team was grabbed and forcibly restrained since 11th Aug 2018 til now.

Also lawyers were warned not to represent any Jasic workers or their licenses will be at risk.

Labor disputes in China

This incident reflects the vast disparity of power between capital and labor in contemporary China. When workers propose to organize a union in accordance with the law, and to mediate an industrial dispute within the framework of the law, they are suppressed by the company, the police, and higher levels of the official union apparatus. When companies violate labor laws and regulations, on the other hand, they are able to mobilize the police and the union system in order to oppose workers’ demands to form unions in accordance with the law.