China Detains Three NGO Employees in Labor Crackdown

Mark Schiefelbein, AP
Mark Schiefelbein, AP

The Chinese government detained three non-governmental organization (NGO) employees in different cities last week in what appears to be a coordinated police crackdown on groups that provide training and support for migrant workers. Police questioned staffers at each office and seized documents and computers.

The South China Morning Post on Sunday identified the detainees as Li Dajun, director of Hope Community in Beijing; volunteer Liang Zicun of the Guangdong Mumian Social Work Association in Guangzhou; and Li Changjiang, director of the Qinghu Workers Center in Shenzhen.

The arrests were linked to the Jasic worker’s movement, an effort by workers to organize at the Jasic Technology factory in Shenzhen, and the mounting tension between Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and Marxist student groups. The Chinese government accuses labor activists of “causing trouble” by challenging industrial policy and working conditions.

“There are still plenty of civil society groups that have not been touched. The ones that have been targeted are those that help workers to organize and take action, which are seen as a threat to social stability,” Geoffrey Crothall of the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin observed to the South China Morning Post.

Friends of the detained activists and members of their organizations insisted they did nothing wrong, and in fact, had worked productively with local government agencies and businesses.

A teacher at one of the migrant worker centers ventured the crackdown is underway because the Chinese Communist Party “wants control over the ideas of the people, even in what was a relatively tame operation that let working class people think about their role in society on their own terms.”

This insecurity is heightened by the approach of several significant anniversaries, most notably the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Bloomberg News noted last week that China is also cracking down on classically liberal economists whose work could threaten the Communist Party’s uneasy fusion of authoritarianism and industrial capitalism from the opposite direction as the Marxists, giving capital owners dangerous ideas about how much control the Party should be able to exercise over their industries.

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