For the first time in 30 years, students from the best Chinese universities – Beida, Renmin, Nanjing – joined workers to set up an independent trade union. China’s party-linked official union has sided with Jasic Technology, which has tried to stifle protests with arrests and beatings.
Shenzhen (AsiaNews) – Police in anti-riot gear arrested 50 students and worker activists trying to set up an independent trade union inside the Shenzhen-based Jasic Technology, a publicly traded company that treats its employees "as slaves".
The arrests took place at 5 am yesterday. Three workers – Lan Zhiwei, Yu Kailong and Yu Weiye – were among those taken into custody. They were out on bail from an earlier mass arrest.
The other detainees are students from Peking University (Beida), Renmin University and Nanjing University, who came to support the workers' struggle.
The labour dispute with Jasic Technology began in May. In July, dozens of Maoist-inspired students came to Shenzhen to show their support for workers' demands. They were joined by Maoist Party veterans, critical of the gap between haves and have-nots in Chinese society.
The group’s various protests were hampered by arrests and beatings by anonymous thugs. However, students and activists used social media to spread their message and create solidarity in the population at large.
Starting last week, all the posts and chats used to organise the protests were blocked and suppressed by the authorities.
China’s official union, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, sided with the company and had two workers and a student arrested for seeking dialogue with them.
In China, independent trade unions have been banned since the Tiananmen protests (1989). At the time, an alliance between students and workers led to independent labour organising, but their demands were met with a military crackdown and slaughter.
According to the China Labor Bulletin (CLB), labour unrest and strikes are commonplace, but the latest in Shenzen is unusual because for the first time in almost 30 years, university students joined workers to support their demands for justice.
For CLB deputy director Cai Chongguo, the workers' movement “has shaken the ideological basis and the legitimacy of the current regime” amid growing public anger among China’s poorest over a quickly expanding wealth gap and the power of the financial and political elite.