A Letter from a regional OHS network to call on the release of Labour activists YANG Zhengjun, WEI Zhili, and KE Chengbing
Song Yiya, Director of Shenzhen City Pingshan District Security Bureau
Wang Shiangyang, Prosecuter General of Pingshan District Shenzhen City People’s Procuratorate
Xu Wenhai, Director of Shenzhen City Security Bureau
He xun, Prosecuter General of Shenzhen City People’s Procuratorate
Li Chunsheng, Director of Guangdong Province Security Bureau
Lin Yiying, Prosecuter General of Guangdong Province People’s Procuratorate
Wang Dongming, Chairman, All-China Federation of Trade Union
1st August 2019
On January 8th, the police stormed an urban village residence and detained “iLabour” website editor Yang Zhengjun.Three months later, on March 20th, police detained another two editors —Wei Zhili and KeChengbing. The three activists collaborate to produce “iLabour”, an independent online labour rights media platform. They have coveredworker stories and provided workers with a platform for legal consultation. At the time of their arrest, they were reporting and supporting a struggle of construction workers from Hunan, who have been working in Shenzhen to do blast hole drilling in Shenzhen in the 1990s, to claim their compensation where many of them were diagnosed with pneumoconiosis when return to their hometown.
The three “iLabour” activists began supporting pneumoconiosis workers’ struggle in early 2018 by providing them with labor law consultation and sending out updates of the struggle in Shenzhen online, where to petition for more than 10 times, to make their plight visible to the public. Harassment and suppression of the iLabour editors began as early as June 2018, when Ke was summoned by police for questioning about a piece on the pneumoconiosis struggle. In the same month, Yang was apprehended by police at the scene of the pneumoconiosis protests and taken in for questioning. The editors received other threatening calls from police as they continued to report on the case. On January 8th, one day after fifty pneumoconiosis workers who were forcibly sent back to Hunan police after another attempt to petition to the Shenzhen government, Yang Zhengjun was arrested in Guangzhou. After Yang’s arrest, Wei Zhili and KeChengbing continued to help the workers and provided them with legal advice. On March 20, Wei and Ke were also arrested in Guangzhou.
The local policetold Yang and Wei’s families that they were arrested for helping pneumoconiosis workers. Three of them were detained at the Shenzhen No. 2 Detention Center for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, and transferred to “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” (hereafter RSDL ). All of their lawyers’ requestsfor meetings have been refused, and basic civil and political rights were being taken away. Their families are very concerned about their personal safety and well-beingsin such a secret detention.
We would like to address that helping pneumoconiosis workers to fight their compensation shouldn’t be a crime. The local government should not arbitrarily detain the “iLabour Three” due to their promotion of worker’ rights to health, a dignified life, and freedom of peaceful assembly through online platform. The poor situation of the pneumoconiosis workers is indeed the consequence of corporate violations against the labour law, and a reflection of local government ineffective enforcement of labour rules and regulations who fail to protect the health and basic rights of the workers. Instead of suppressing the voices ofworkers and activists by violence act and arbitrary detentions, the local government should ensure basic human rightswill be in place as follow:
Release Yang Zhengjun, Wei Zhili and KeChengbing immediately and unconditionally;
Ensure that they are free from any forms of torture or cruelty, inhumane and degrading treatment, and have regular access to their family and lawyer of theirchoice;
Resume the negotiation with the pneumoconiosis workers and carry out adequate compensation plan which workers voice are included.
Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV)
Scottish Hazards Centre
The European Work Hazards Network
Asia Citizens Center for Environmental and Health
Ban Asbestos Network Korea
Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC)
The Occupational and Environmental Network of India (OEHNI)
Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environmental Foundation (OSHE)
Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress (BFTUC)
Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Centre (JOSHRC)