Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chinese blogger: What sort of “harmonious society” is this?

Drawing on the reactionary theories of the “sage” Confucius, the Chinese government has adopted the ideal of a “harmonious society”. However, contradictions between capital and labour are never “harmonious” and the restoration of capitalist relations of production in much of China has been a disaster for the working class.

This article draws on several sources, English (see here ) and Chinese, to explore a “mass incident” that occurred last June in Guxiang Township, Chaozhou Municipality, Guangdong Province.

Tendons slashed after seeking back pay

In late May, Xiong Hanjiang, a 19-year-old migrant worker from Sichuan visited his township labour bureau in the hope that officials there would help him get his two-month’s salary back from his employer, Hua Yi Porcelain (see photo above).

The bureau ordered the factory to give Xiong his 3,400 yuan salary and on June 1 at 9am the young man, accompanied by his parents, went to Hua Yi factory to see the boss about payment of the arrears.

Although the boss had agreed to pay the wages, he was nowhere to be seen. At midday, his wife went off to lunch, telling Xiong that he would be paid at 4pm.

At 4pm an altercation broke out when the boss told Xiong that he was not going to be paid. Xiong picked up a stool with which to hit the boss’s head. Xiong’s father tried to stop him but was himself assaulted by the boss’s men. Xiong chased after the boss but was overpowered by the boss’s men and had the tendons on his hands and feet severed.

After receiving a report of the incident, police from the Guxiang police station rushed to the scene where they found the victim unconscious. They sent him to the People’s Liberation Army No. 188 Hospital in Chaozhou. In the meantime, the boss had disappeared, but, according to eyewitnesses, his family later in the afternoon took 3000 yuan to Guxiang police station.

On June 2, Xiong’s family went to the police station demanding the arrest of the boss and assistance with their son’s medical expenses. The Guxiang Party and government leaders tried to calm the situation, visiting the injured worker and offering to assist with his expenses.

However, the Xiong family wanted compensation for their son’s injuries and the arrest of the boss and his accomplices. Between June 3 and June 6 there were various incidents including the smashing of the police station door, the destruction of a plaque outside the police station, and assaults on several police. Some of the migrant workers were subsequently arrested as “troublemakers”. Claims that the local police had admitted being paid to ensure that the boss went free did not help, and were subsequently denied by higher-ups in Chaozhou.

The June 6 incident

On June 4, the boss was arrested and two more were taken in on June 5. However, June 6 was a festival day, and by evening a large crowd of Sichuanese migrant workers had gathered outside the police station demanding the punishment of the assailants.

Around 6pm, the migrant worker crowd cheered when a car was involved in a minor traffic incident. The car was then attacked and burned, thus starting a four hour riot which saw more than 100 vehicles, including a luxury Buick and a couple of BMWs, torched.

Guxiang locals considered this an attack on themselves and gathered for a counterattack. They concentrated on destroying the homes of migrant workers.

It took a month for tensions to subside and for work at some of the factories to resume.

Harmony cannot exist in the presence of capitalism

The cause of this dispute is undoubtedly the restoration of capitalist property rights and the accompanying reappearance of the ideas and habits that accompany capitalism.

The class component of justice under capitalism is revealed through the inadequacy of the new Labour Contract Law to ensure the just treatment of a worker denied his wages. “What is the point of this law after the Guxiang incident?” asked a Chinese citizen online.

Corruption in the service of the rich is manifested in the ability of the boss’s family to initially bribe his way out of trouble. “What kind of a deterrent is the so-called criminal law?” asked the same person.

The problemsof the poor in a society rapidly transitioning to all-out capitalism is seen in the victim, unable to pay his medical expenses and not having received any compensation. “What kind of functions do government departments have?”

The unity of the Chinese people has disappeared under the pressure of economic and social inequality: many of the better-off coastal peoples treat rural migrant workers from inland provinces as uneducated and fail to respect them as humans.

Of the 80,000 residents of Guxiang, 20,000 are migrants workers from Sichuan mainly, but also from Anhui and elsewhere. Some of the locals have taken to expressing regret at having sent donations following the Sichuan earthquake, accusing the migrant workers of being “ungrateful” and completely forgetting that a young worker remains in hospital possibly crippled for life.

As one blogger put it, referring to the severing of Xiong's tendons, "What sort of harmonious society is this?"

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