Zhang Lijia

Apple, and its supplier Foxconn, are in the middle of revolts by workers in Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Wukan, who are standing up for their rights. Former factory worker Zhang Lijia supports their actions, and hope China’s government will continue to support those workers, she writes in The Guardian.

Zhang Lijia

I  felt the pain of my fellow workers because I, too, slaved for 10 years at a factory and endured its strict rules. The restrictions at my state-owned factory, however, paled in comparison to those of cold-hearted capitalism. There is labour law that forbids a 16-hour working day, among other malpractices, but it is not forcefully implemented by the local authority. After all, the private or foreign-invested enterprises bring revenues.

I was very pleased to see the migrant workers beginning to resist. Shortly after Foxconn’s suicides, workers from several Japanese-owned Honda factories revolted. They went on strike until their demands for better pay and working conditions were met. In chatrooms on the internet, several Honda workers argued that it would be better to put up a fight than to take one’s life. Compared with their fathers, the young workers are savvy about the internet, better educated, more worldly and far more aware of the law and their rights…

I was relieved and delighted by the approach the authorities have taken in both the Wukan and Wuhan cases: they have clearly recognisednongmin’s rising demands for rights and equality. But a soft approach alone isn’t enough. I hope China’s leaders will really listen to the farmers, opening up more channels for them to express their grievances, and allowing some kind of independent labour union or at least a collective bargaining mechanism to ease the conflicts. And ultimately, they’ll have to grant the same rights to those who make gadgets such as the Xbox and iPhone as those who use them.

More in The Guardian.

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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