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Shenzhen Labor Activist Attacked

In this issue of China Labor News Translations we offer coverage of a savage attack on November 20 against grass-roots labor rights advocate Huang Qingnan, of the Dagongzhe Migrant Workers Center, in the Long’gang district of Shenzhen.

English language media coverage has begun to appear (for example in the 11/28/07 Wall Street Journal), as the incident draws international attention. Here CLNT provides two Chinese articles not otherwise available in English: “Succession of Pearl River Delta Labor Rights Advocates Attacked by Thugs” from Citizens’ Rights and Livelihood Watch (minsheng guancha) 11/20/07; and “Who Did Dagongzhe Offend?” from Southern Metropolitan Daily (Nanfang Dushibao), 11/28/07.

The mainland web newsletter Citizens’ Rights and Livelihood Watch provided the first account of the attack, mere hours after it took place, with vivid details. It additionally mentions three recent attacks on other Shenzhen labor activists.

The coverage in Southern Metropolitan Daily, a widely read and prestigious newspaper in South China, is unusual – and therefore significant – for its sympathetic tone. The article emphasizes the legal status of Dagongzhe and the advocacy work of Huang Qingnan, and references support from Hong Kong labor NGOs – a sometimes sensitive topic on the mainland – in a non-inflammatory way.

These events mark a turn towards violence against grass-roots legal rights activists. In the last ten years, some small labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta have established semi-formal relations with local government departments, including industrial health hospitals, branches of the ACFTU or the Communist Youth League, to carry out grass-roots programs emphasizing rights awareness and assistance in filing labor claims.

But – while minimum wage has increased, the purchase power of migrant workers has declined against steep inflation and increased deductions by employers, and brutal overtime and wage abuses continued – informal legal self-defense by worker-advocates has accelerated. In particular, Dagongzhe has successfully helped workers file a large number of severance pay claims. It now seems that targeted attacks on legal activists like Huang – as distinct from the use of hired thugs to break up wildcat strikes – may constitute a new stage of retaliation. Local observers speculate on possible collusion between employers and police, government officers or organized crime syndicates in these attacks.

This new employer violence is a serious concern, as history has demonstrated that countries with no effective legal means for workers’ self-defense can devolve into anarchic violence. Therefore, by bringing attention to these incidents, we point to the danger of unchecked employer violence and thereby hope to highlight and encourage institutional support for lawful means of worker self-defense.

As this posting is published, Huang Qingnan is still facing a grave threat of loss of his leg, due to infection. The Hong Kong labor group Workers Empowerment, while calling on the Shenzhen government to provide compensation, also welcomes contributions for Huang’s medical expenses to:
Bank A/C Name: Worker Empowerment
Bank A/C no.: 
Bank Code: 024
Bank Address:
Swift Code: HASE HKHH.

Please e-mail to or call for receipt or enquiry on donation.

English language media coverage of the case can be found at:

PDF version of the introduction:

Here are the two translated articles

1)”Shenzhen Labor Activists Attacked
CLNT_labor_advocates_attacked.pdf [79.70KB]

2) “Who Did Dagongzhe Offend?
CLNT_HuangQingnan_Nandu.pdf [226.40KB]

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