Monday, April 6, 2015
Class struggle in the Peoples' Republic: Chinese students use crowd funding website to support worker activist in Guangzhou
When Chen Weixiang, a 22-year-old medical student from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, heard in January this year about the dismissal of local sanitation worker and labour activist Yu Wucang, he decided to help.
Chen, who has been a long-standing supporter of Guangzhou’s sanitation workers, and a group of fellow students, used social media platforms to start a crowd funding campaign to pay Yu’s salary. On 4 February, about 70 supporters put more than 3,000 yuan into the account in less than six hours.
Chen pointed out that contributors would get no financial benefit themselves and that the campaign to support Big Brother Yu was purely about social justice.
Yu had been dismissed at the end of last year for his involvement in a strike for higher wages by sanitation workers in 2013 and his vociferous criticism of the employment system for sanitation workers in Guangzhou’s Yue Xiu district where workers are divided into 18 different administrative regions and regularly moved to different agency companies to prevent them from obtaining unlimited-term contracts.
Following the successful fund raising, Chen and Ying Ying, a student from the South China Normal University, went one step further and invited the Guangzhou Civil Affairs Bureau to a “Chinese New Year Lunch” to talk about Yu’s case and ask for his reinstatement. The Bureau unsurprisingly refused, citing anti-corruption regulations as the reason.
Yu was offered his job back in January but only on condition that he signs a letter guaranteeing that he will cease his labour activism and no longer discuss sanitation workers’ rights on social media. Yu naturally refused:
As citizens we have the right and the obligation to supervise the government and to have our opinions heard. I am just a sanitation worker and my voice is weak but I will continue to shout as loud as I can.
Yu continues to sweep the streets every day in protest at his dismissal