News / Asia

China Labor Activist Freed, Says Will Still Help Strikers

FILE - Workers protest during a strike as police stand guard at the factory area of Yue Yuen Industrial, in Dongguan, Guangdong province, April 18, 2014.
FILE - Workers protest during a strike as police stand guard at the factory area of Yue Yuen Industrial, in Dongguan, Guangdong province, April 18, 2014.
Reuters
A Chinese labor activist has been freed after being detained for more than two days by security agents who he says tried to convince him not to make contact with workers involved in China's biggest strike in years.
          
Zhang Zhiru's brief detention underscores nervousness among officials about the strike, which began on April 14 at a Yue Yuen shoe manufacturing complex that employs some 40,000 workers in the southern industrial city of Dongguan.
          
A colleague of Zhang's at the Shenzhen Chunfeng Labor Dispute Service Center, which he runs, was detained separately on Tuesday and has not been released, Zhang told Reuters by telephone on Friday.
          
Labor activists say the strike is one of China's biggest since market reforms started in the late 1970s. It is already starting to have ripple effects on businesses.
          
German sportswear firm Adidas is shifting some orders from the factory to minimize the impact of the strike, and a spokesman for Nike, which also sources shoes from the facility, said on Thursday the Oregon-based company was watching developments closely.
          
Zhang had been working with other activists and lawyers to help workers at Yue Yuen organize and press their demands regarding social insurance payments. He visited the Dongguan site on Monday after an attempt last week was thwarted by security agents.
          
Speaking on Friday from the southern city of Shenzhen, next to Dongguan, Zhang said domestic security agents summoned him to a meeting on Tuesday and asked him to promise he wouldn't make contact with the workers. He refused, and was taken to what the agents said was a “vacation area” in the suburbs of nearby Guangzhou, where they removed his mobile phone, confined him to a room and barred him from making outside contact, he said.
          
They tried to convince him to write a statement that he was “safe and on a trip for fun with friends,” but he refused. He was allowed a telephone call to his wife on Wednesday afternoon.
          
Late on Thursday morning, he was driven back to Shenzhen, where he lives, and released, Zhang said. He was again told not to make contact with the striking workers.
          
“They said this would be going against the work of the government,” which he was told was trying to facilitate an arrangement to end the strike. “But, definitely, if the workers have a need or if they have some questions and come to us we will still give them opinions and suggestions, telling them how they can better protect their interests,” Zhang said.
          
The Dongguan office of the Ministry of State Security did not have an immediate response to questions about the case. Calls to the Dongguan police propaganda office went unanswered.
          
Geoff Crothall, at the Hong Kong-based watchdog China Labor Bulletin, said the detentions of Zhang and his colleague were illegal, but not a reflection of a broader crackdown amid a recent wave of labor activism.
          
“We do not think it is politically motivated or represents a crackdown on labor rights groups in general. Rather, it is a local action in response to a specific issue,” he wrote in emailed comments.
          
Separately, a spokesman for the Ministry of Labor and Social Security told reporters in Beijing on Friday that Yue Yuen had been underpaying its social welfare contributions.
          
“The related department has already ordered the factory to rectify the wrongdoings before April 25,” Li Zhong said. “Our ministry will continue to keep a close watch on the progress of the issue."

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid