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China: Teacher strike

Teachers in Huadu, an outlying suburb of Southern China metropolis Guangzhou went on strike yesterday in front of the local district government building yesterday, calling for higher wages.

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A thorough look through Google search results for “Huadu” “teacher” and “protest” suggests a media blackout, which the teachers seem to have expected, as the story has been reported on closely at the 21Teacher internet forum, at least until comments were turned off early this afternoon. Of net news sites, GoldenGoat Net, Sina and Netease have run stories, some of which have since been deleted, along with other bbs forum and blog posts. Posts at 21Teacher estimate that between seven hundred to a thousand teachers appeared on the Huadu Plaza steps at nine this morning, and four hundred patrol and riot police—who some spectators say got violent with at least one teacher—being surrounded by spectators reportedly numbering between two to ten thousand, many of which it was speculated were also teachers. One statement not being refuted online is that the teachers have remained peaceful, breaking their “silent sit-in” only to sing The Internationale.

Chances are the PLA would be sent in to ‘negotiate’ if China's state unions went and tried to organize activities on behalf of their members, so what, asks forum member lhghk123, might have instigated this? An misinterpreted signal from the top, it seems, from someone who probably meant every word he said:

不知道此次事件会如何发展,但我听到了很多教师的谈论,他们担心受到政府的不明不白的处理,受到迫害。作为花都区的一名普通居民,也是考虑到我的孩子将来还有老师来教导他

前天,即2006年12月31日,中共中央总书记、国家主席、中央军委主席胡锦涛来到国家扶贫开发工作重点县–河北省承德市围场满族蒙古族自治县考察经济社会发展情况,看望慰问基层干部群众。在御道口寄宿制小学,胡锦涛对老师说:”我向你们表示深深的敬意。”同时,他要求各级党委和政府热情关心工作在农村特别是贫困地区农村的老师们,为他们创造更好的工作、学习、生活条件。

I don't know how this incident will play out, but I've listened to many teachers’ discussions. They worry about getting a shady settlement from the government, maybe even getting hurt. As a common citizen of Huadu district, I also have to consider the teachers who will instruct my child in the future

Two days ago, December 31, 2006, General-Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, National Chairman and Chairman of the Military Commission of the CPC Central Committee, Hu Jintao visited key county in the country's poverty alleviation program Weichang Manchu/Mongolian Autonomous County in Hebei Province's Chengde City to both investigate the economic and social development situation and pay respects to the grassroots level cadres and masses. At Yudaokou boarding elementary school, Hu Jintao said to teachers, “I express my deepest repect to you.” At the same time, he told the party committees and governments at all levels to passionately care for for teachers working in the countryside, especially those in poverty-stricken areas, and to create for them the best work, study and living conditions.

There's no union to better articulate the demands but according to forum poster hdjs, they are for education officials to:

重视教师待遇,籍创建教育强区之机增加工资收入和医保等福利待遇。

pay more attention to teachers’ salaries and create a chance for the establishment of a strong education district by increasing incomes, health insurance and other benefits.

Didn't take long for the cops to show up, and 21Teacher user tys123 was there to take some photos:

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Commenter Huadu Watch (花都关注):

请注意保护我们的同行,最好不要发那些能看得清楚教师真面目的图吧!上网要有点意识!虽然说你不发,拍得人有很多,但是请注意一下吧!

Please remember to take care of our colleagues. It would be best to not post those pictures which show teachers’ faces clearly! Using the internet, one needs to be aware! Even though you say you won't post them, there were lots of people taking photos, so please be careful!

Commenter May All Your Wishes Come True (心想事成):

近几年的区人大会议,我们的教师代表所提出的改善教师待遇问题都没有得到妥善的解决,迫于政府的权威,没有人敢代表教师去跟政府领导谈判,因为怕事后报复,如此以来,有谁能告诉我们还有更合法的方式来解决吗?

None of the proposals calling for improved treatment of teachers put forward by us teachers’ representatives to district meetings of the National People's Congress over the last few years have received appropriate resolution. Facing government authority, nobody dares represent the teachers in going to negotiate with government leaders, for fear of retaliation. So, who can tell us a more legal method of resolution?

According to another post from Huadu Watch, a peaceful sit-in protest is fully within their rights according to point nine of article seventy-six of the sixth chapter of the most recent update to Mandatory Education Law, implemented on September 7, 2006, which reads:

当政府不能按时足额发工资待遇时, 有权集体到同级政府门口静坐示威,督促同级政府尽快支付工资待遇。20天后还不能支付时,有权集体到上一级政府门口静坐示威,直到解决问题为止。

When the government cannot manage to pay wages on time and in full, the right exists to carry out silent group demonstrations at the door of governments of equal level to urge the government to pay wages as soon as possible. If still unpaid after twenty days, the right exists for the group to move the protest to the next higher government level, until the problem gets resolved.

To which user ‘student’ says:

《中华人民共和国集会游行示威法》第二十八条的规定:未经许可的集会、游行、示威,由公安机关给予负责人和直接责任人员警告或者15日以下拘留,有犯罪行为的依照刑法追究刑事责任。

Article twenty-eight of the Assemblies, Marches and Demonstrations Law for the People's Republic of China rules: organizers of unpermitted assemblies, marches and demonstrations will be warned by police or detained for up to fifteen days, and held criminally responsible for illegal criminal behavior.

Shortly before 21Teacher stopped allowing new posts and comments and information from teachers and those at the scene from sharing the latest updates, user 20070101 wrote:

最新消息!今天下午3点各学校派教师代表去区委开会.大家看看区里的意图再说.先冷静别冲动 ,是大家的事,不能只考虑自己.别把事情弄僵了.

The newest information! At three this afternoon, teacher-representatives from every school will be sent to the district committee for a meeting. Let's see what the District's intentions are first, keep calm and don't become impulsive. This is everyone's business, you cannot only consider yourself. Don't make a deadlock of things.

But 21Teacher wasn't the only website censoring news of the event, according to poster ‘orange'; just the nicest:

从昨天晚上到今天一早就在关注这个事件,很多网站论坛都有关于这事件的转述.但是 ,很快就随即被某些人关闭了~~~~掩耳盗铃的现代版

Since last night until early this morning I've been following this incident and many websites had reports of this incident, but were quickly shut down by some people~~~~self-deception for modern times.

Blackout imposed on media means citizen reporting of the event has limits. User ‘teacher’ posts some financial details regarding Huadu from one news website dating back to the first financial quarter of 2006:

今年1月—4月,花都区的财政一般预算收入累计达 6.0233亿元,同比增长103.03%,其增长速度在广州市属十二个区县中名列第一。在财税收入增加的情况下,今年花都的公关财政开支也将增大,其中包括拿出4000万元为该区教师加薪…

From January to April this year, Huadu district's budget for public finances totalled 6.0233 billion yuan, placing it first for growth out of Guangzhou's twelve districts. With increased public funds, Huadu's public relations expenditures will also increase this year, including the forty million yuan taken to raise teacher's salaries in this district.

Confirming that, some bloggers pointed out that teachers in Huadu saw salaries raised last year by 300 yuan, or USD 38 per month, but was it enough? Other bloggers have mentioned vast disparities exist between salaries for teachers in Huadu and those in other districts, although no figures have yet been given on 21Teacher.

Not all the commenters agree with the striking teachers, like one anonymouse user who posted ‘Several Reasons Not To Give Teachers A Pay Raise’:

不给教师涨工资的几条理由:
1.中国的教育制度本不平等,国家的教育经费原本不多,若教师再涨工资,想必只有从学生身上收取,对于经济并不发达的地区的学生家里,无疑给他们增加了负担.
2.在许多贫困地区,仍有很多的孩子上不起学,读不起书,教师少拿一些,把这些钱给孩子读书,中国有少一些文盲,何乐而不为.
3.教师这职业本身就有奉献精神,既然选择了这行业,就应有这情操.
4.当今,有许多教师在家开办课堂收学生,一节课收费不等,初中20~30元,高中40~70元,大学导师更加贵.
5.在城市里,老师开着车上班,住着商品房,在一些所谓的名校中是极为普遍的事,难道,这还要涨工资吗?

若真要涨工资,应给山村教师涨,因为他们是最无私的.

1. China's education isn't equal to begin with, and educational expenditure isn't high. If teachers’ salaries are raised, most probably it will come out of students’ own pockets. As for homes of students in economically undeveloped regions, this will undoubtedly increase their burdens.
2. In many poverty-stricken regions, there are still many children who can't afford to go to school, who can't learn. If teachers just took a little less and put this money toward sending those kids to school, China would have a few less illiterates, so why don't they?
3. The spirit of this profession teaching is dedication to begin with. If you choose this profession, you should feel this way.
4. At present, many teachers open up their homes offering private tutoring to their students. Every class fee is different. Twenty to thirty for junior high, forty to seventy for senior high, and even more so for university professors.
5. In the city, teachers drive to work, and live in commercial housing. In some so-called well-known schools, this is something quite common. As if they need still need raises?

If raises are really needed, it should be given to teachers in the hills and villages, because they are the most selfless.

Many more photos from the sit-in here and here.

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12 comments

  • Thanks for the posts and translations, but isn’t the PRC’s anthem “The March of the Volunteers”? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_of_the_Volunteers)

    Perhaps they were singing “The Internationale” as a rallying song.

  • Yin

    this is the most ridiculous comments, which I have a lot to comment to :

    1. China’s education isn’t equal to begin with, and educational expenditure isn’t high. If teachers’ salaries are raised, most probably it will come out of students’ own pockets. As for homes of students in economically undeveloped regions, this will undoubtedly increase their burdens.

    My comment–
    This commentator obviously has no basic understanding of education system of China. The salary of teacher are entirely from the government. Have nothing to do with tuition. Of course, if school is ran well and makes profit. Some of this profit goes to its employees — teacher. However, increase teachers’ salary is about asking government to put more money into schools. It is total irrelevant to the student’s tuition.

    2. In many poverty-stricken regions, there are still many children who can’t afford to go to school, who can’t learn. If teachers take this money to send those kids to school, China would have a few less illiterates, so why don’t they?

    My comment–
    this comment is just not logical.

    3. The spirit of this profession teaching is in contributing to begin with. If you choose this profession, you should feel this way.

    My comment–
    The translation is not accurate. This piece of comment is about asking teacher to sacrifice themselves for the good of society. I do respect people living that way but I cannot require others to live that way. I want to ask the commentator why you don’t sacrifice yourself, instead of asking others to sacrifice? The teachers do their jobs, why should not they get the reasonable salary as any other professions do? You live once and teachers live only once too. Why should you enjoy your life while asking teachers to suffer? What makes them deserve a miserable life?

    4. At present, many teachers open up their homes offering private tutoring to their students. Every class fee is different. Twenty to thirty for junior high, forty to seventy for senior high, and even more so for university professors.

    My comment–
    The teachers may do private tutorial,s just like anyone else can do party job. So what? How is this related to pay rise? I cannot understand why doing part time job should prevent them from getting reasonable salary? Actually doing part time tutorial proves that teachers are not getting enough salary from their full time work.

    5. In the city, teachers drive to work, and live in commercial housing. In some so-called well-known schools, this is something quite common. As if they need still need raises?

    My comment–
    This is not logical either. In well-known schools, teachers may get good income. However, what about the majority of the schools and the teachers working in those schools. The income of a handful of teachers in well-known schools cannot justify that most of teachers in other schools have to receive low salary.

  • Thanks very much 羽之助 and Yin for your good eyes! It’s been blogging under duress here this past week.

    羽之助, I’ve made your correction, and Yin, I’ve switched ‘in contribution’ to ‘dedication.’ How’s that sound? Thank you both again very much for taking the time to point the mistakes out. 羽之助, I checked out your blog and have sent the address to GVO’s Northeast Asia editor Oiwan Lam. But Yin, where’s your blog??

  • […] 原来John在一个礼拜前就在全球之声上写了一篇很详细的报道,China: Teacher strike。我写新闻还是太慢。 […]

  • freshis

    针对”不给教师涨工资的几条理由”的感想:
    In opposition to the ‘reasons not to raise teachers wages’ sentiment:

    –解决教育经费(其中也包括教师的工资发放)问题是国家的责任,为什么非要把教师涨工资和学生收费挂钩呢?!这不是刻意把教师福利与学生权益对立起来吗?!况且,国家各部门各阶层当中比教师收入高的何其多。。。,为什么就非得要教师这一整体还处于低下收入的阶层单独来承担这一国之大任呢?!情操总不能当饭吃吧!?至于个别地区个别教师的收入和生活水平比较高,我们应该乐见其成才对!在同一地域,当大多其它行业的人都能获得良好生活品质的时候,难到教师就不可以吗?就还得一直要做”臭老九”、穷书生不成?!
    Resolving education funding (included in which are teachers’ payrolls) problems is the responsibility of the state, so why must teacher salaries be linked to student fees?! Wouldn’t this painstakingly pit teachers’ welfare against students’ interests? Moreover, the wages at different governmental levels and departments are much higher than teachers’…so why must all teachers stay in the lower-wage class and singularly bear this great burden for the nation?! Sentiments don’t ever make for good food!? As for particular regions and particular teachers’ wages and standards of living being rather high, we should be glad for them! When most people from other professions in the same area can earn a nice quality of life, as if teachers should not? And stay ‘the stinking old ninth’s, poor scholars never to succeed?

    再说,纵观当今世界发达国家无不把教育看成国家发展的重头戏,都是大手笔的投入,教师待遇和收入更是足以其它行业艳羡的,这样才能更多、更好地吸引更多精英和栋梁之才到教育行列中来,这样才能更好地为教育事业输送最优质的人才,才能保障国家的持续快速发展。
    Again, a look around shows that there’s not a country in the world that doesn’t see education as a sign of their country’s development, they all invest large sums of money; when teachers’ salary and wages are the envy of other professions, only then will more and better talent come into the profession. Only thus will the highest-grade of talent be brought into the education profession, and the continued high speed of the country’s development be ensured.

    凭心而论,我国现在的教师行业中(除了个别优质高校和中小学外),大多不都是泛泛之辈,有几成是精英人士(名牌大学出来当教师的人少之又少)?就算有个别不小心走进了这个行业,真正有能力有本事的人迟早不都跑光光了吗?可想,孕育国家未来的人大多数只是智力、学识、能力都只是中等上下水平的人,那我们的祖国的未来也是可以预知的了。。。(在这里绝无贬低我们可敬的人民教师之意,本人原来也是国内一大城市重点中学的教师;众所周知,师范大学的平均入学分数和要求大抵也就是在所有大学中的中间水平而已)
    To be fair, within the country’s teaching profession at present (save particular high-grade colleges, universities, high- and primary schools), most of them are just mediocre? Just a fraction are outstanding (graduates from brandname universities going into teaching being fewer than few)?

    Comments translated by John Kennedy

  • Freshis,
    I agree with your sentiment. Education is one of the most important investments a country can make in its own future. However, not all developed countries value education so highly. When I read your comment describing the situation of China’s teachers, I realized you could just as easily have been describing the United States, where I am from.

  • 园子

    As a teacher, though from different district adjuncted to Hua du District, i am really shoched at the news. Besides the comments mentioned previously, i’d like to see the insight story from this events in another perspective. It is true that Hua Du district is the most developing area in Guangzhou City, providing the largest sum of taxation to the local government. Probably the leading governors think all this benifits is due to their smart decisions. Currently, i think, more money collected from Hua Du district will be used to make compensation for the great construction of the City Metro. Actually, the construction of the city metro has been taken away most of the wages from our teachers, especially from the Guangzhou Teachers. In my area, our wages have not been changed for 4 years. So the living quality of our life is getting worse, with the high cost for housing and comsumables. So think about the teachers working the countryside, it is impossible for them to get more incomes. Where will the big pie collected from different taxes be divided? It is ensured that more money will be first used to promote the income of the civil servants because they are in the most important position and give the final permits to investors whether they can do business in Hua Du districtor not. If they can’t be fed enough, more destuctions like corruptions will be inevitable. So this is the biggest problem under the Chinese typical context. Moreover, i assume the the governor in Hua Du district will be promoted to the higher level soon if he can handle such roit well. In a summary, it is impossible or nonesense for Chinese teachers to achieve the same treatments, the same welfare, the same incomes as the civil servants, even in any countries. Luckily, if we can get a little bit higher income above the average. We are forever the weakest group of intellectuals in China. No more comments. If we are aged below 25, get move to be the civil servants. Or if you are capable enough, change your job as soon as possible. But if you are old and not a very good professional teacher indeed, think about the teachers in the poverty areas, you can feel better inside. Amen!

  • mahathir_fan

    This strikes marks the beginning of the 2nd coming of the Communist Revolution. Workers of the world, UNITE!

  • Mahathir_fan, have you heard of any similar incidents occuring prior or following this one? I’d turn to China Labour Bulletin (http://www.clb.org.hk/) but things aren’t like they were before the earthquake.

    I’m not familiar with the role China’s official union(s) play when it comes to collective bargaining and such, including in regards to teachers, but I’d be thrilled to read anything you could suggest, Chinese or English.

  • irene

    对于教师罢工这件事政府为什么要如此隐瞒呢,网站上的图片链接在163.com的相册里的也被关闭了,如果不是偶然发现这个网站,我想我一直不会知道这件事了。06年6月的时候美国媒体曝出布什政府在监听全美电话时表示担忧:政府到底瞒着我们还作了多少事呢。当时看的时候觉得美国人民真可怜,咱么中国就没那么多花花肠子。现在这种担忧却降临到我的头上……

    Translation of comment by Global Voices editor John Kennedy
    :

    Why would the government want to cover up this teacher strike like this? The photos linked to at 163.com have also been shut down. If I hadn’t come across Global Voices Online by chance, I think I would have never known about this incident. In June 2006, American media expressed misgivings when it was exposed that the Bush government was tapping phones across America. Just how much more is the government hiding from us? ‘Those poor Americans,’ I thought when I saw this, ‘we’re not so brazen here in China.’ Now this same concern has dropped down on my own head……

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