China: Rights to strike

Since the beginning of 2010, a wave of worker strikes has appeared in China, to the extent that western mainstream media, such as the Financial Times has recognized the emergence of a new labour movement. Recently, the Chinese workers have even exercised their labour rights in Russia.

According to RIA Novosti, more than 150 Chinese workers have gone on a strike over unpaid salaries for construction work done on infrastructure for the 2012 APEC summit in Russia on 13-14 September.

Feng Shanzhi from Mil Forum noticed the news and criticized the Russia government for sending military police to suppress the strike. However, many comments disagreed with the writer:

sunnyrain: 你在国内罢共产党的工试试?普京够仁慈的了。


sunnyrain: You can try striking against the Chinese Communist Party, Vladimir Putin is comparatively kind already.

翅膀: The diplomatic policy of capitalist countries is not internationalism. They only care about interest, similar to our everyday life relationships. That's why in a capitalist world, countries only have common interest, but no long term friendship. This is unavoidable.

They have no understanding of internationalism, neither do they know the greatness of this concept. They often cursed Chairman Mao for helping Africa back then, without knowing that we benefited a lot today from helping those poor countries.

Moreover, capitalists will be increasingly hard-handed on strikes, and they know how to use tricks and conspiracies. The world of capitalists has been united, but the proletarians have yet to be awakened.

Although the above comment is rather ideological, many supporters of labour rights do believe that the poor labour condition in China is a result of the exploitation from multinational corporates. For example, Qianhong, a well-known commentator criticized Goldman Sachs China representative's opinion on worker strikes:


What does the representative of capital worry about? It is all about multinational corporates’ interest in low labour cost. They threaten to invest in other countries such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil to suppress the increase of labour productivity rate and produce value.


People with a clear mind know that increasing the salary will lead to the relocation of production line in sector that extract profit from the production cost. However, the policy will also stimulate the consumption power of working class and strengthen the internal consumption market…

Similar to many labour rights activists and scholars, Qianhong called for a constitutional amendment to protect the right to strike:



If the Chinese workers have to choose between “committing suicide” and “strike” in order to protect their rights, please be a moral person and let them enjoy their rights to strike, please let them live respectfully!

The slogan “progress with the time” has been uphold in China for 20 years. The open door policy (1982-2012) is approaching its 30 year anniversary and the 18th National Congress of CCP will take place in 2012. The rights and freedom to strike should not be missing in the constitution of PRC. It is about time for China to amend its constitution.

After the Honda Strike earlier in June, many people are quite optimistic that labour strike will soon become a proper way for Chinese workers to improve their working conditions. Lin Da Min notice that mainstream media has started to use the term “Strike” (罢工) in their reports:

由于种种因素,一直以来,“罢工”只是个历史名词和法律名词。现实中,对于工人这一争取权益的方式,别说少有发生,就是有,类似出租车司机罢工,也往往以“集 体喝下午茶”这样的奇怪方式表达,至多是一个听起来温柔一些的“罢运”。事实上,媒体在关注本田中国工人罢工一事上,也有微妙之处。比如,本田中国员工 “走向操场”、“停工”……在些许犹豫之后,“罢工”一词终于出现在新闻报道和标题里。这是一个进步的信号。

Due to various reasons, the word “strike” has always been used in historical and legal documents. In reality, even if there are workers who strive for their rights and interests, like a cab drivers strike, it would be expressed in subtle terms, such as “they hold an afternoon tea party” or “refuse to drive”. As a matter of fact, media first used “marching to the playground”, “factory stopped operation” to describe the Honda workers strike. After certain hesitation and discretion, they started to use “strike” in newspaper headlines. This is a sign of progress.

However, such optimism may come too soon. The word “strike” remains a politically sensitive term. It is censored and filtered away in major search engines. Below shows the screen capture of the search result of “strike” (罢工) in Baidu Tieba (an automatic generated forum). The note says: “I am sorry, according to existing regulation and law, this forum cannot be opened”. Similar notice appeared in all major web portals.

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