China is a land of gross contradictions and crippling ironies from its “Red Aristocracy” to its billionaire communists to its luxury lifestyles for party members. However, perhaps the greatest irony is how the “Worker’s Paradise” regularly arrests those who advocate workers rights. The latest such case involves Zeng Feiyang, director of the labor rights group the Panyu Workers’ Center and his colleagues Tang Huanxing and Zhu Xiaomei. Their crime was tied to their successful advocacy for better worker wages and benefits. After the workers were given the benefits, the government arrested the three advocates.
Zeng Feiyang was given a three-year sentence suspended for four years while Tang Huanxing and Zhu Xiaomei received 18 months suspended sentences. The charge was involvement with “overseas organisations hostile to China”.
The arrests followed their work with workers in the southern province of Guangdong. The government charged them with the absurd offense of “ignoring national laws and organising mass gatherings that disturbed social order.” In other words, they won.
What is truly chilling is that the case also involves China’s signature coerced confession. Zeng was forced to confess to accepting “training and funding from overseas organisations hostile to China and, at their request, incited and organised workers to protect their rights in an extreme way.” He added that “I hope that others will take my case as a lesson and not be conned by such organisations.”
Tang also read a ridiculous confession that said that “On the surface, we seem to be fighting for workers’ rights, but the real intention was to expand our influence, particularly overseas.”
All three gave up their rights to appeal.
The Chinese government might be wise to consider the prediction of Mao: “A potential revolutionary situation exists in any country where the government consistently fails in its obligation to ensure at least a minimally decent standard of life for the great majority of its citizens.”