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Hong Kong Dock Workers Strike Against Long Hours, Low Pay

Hong Kong dock workers strike for their rights.

An ongoing strike by Hong Kong dock workers demanding a pay raise and protesting arduous working conditions is delivering a costly blow to the city’s port operators and winning widespread support from the public.

A few hundred workers began to camp inside the docks on March 28, 2013 after Wing Fung Forwarders and Containers Service Limited [zh], a major subcontractor for Hutchison International Terminals (HIT) which runs the docks, rejected their demand for a 100 Hong Kong dollars [12.88 US dollars] or 20 percent pay increase per eight-hour shift. The company countered with an offer of 5 percent, far below what workers expected. A survey among dock workers showed that they are willing to settle with a 10 percent [zh] rise.

The workers, some of whom work 24-hour shifts, said that they haven’t received raises since 2003 and their current salary is lower than what was paid in 1997.

judge has since rule that the striking workers cannot enter the ship terminals; protests continue on the street outside the entrance.

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The Atlantic – China: Back to Future

Everybody puts eyes on the new leadership group of China. Like it is said in this article, will it be one step forward two steps back or two steps forward and one step back?
Some excerpts from the article:

American government officials who deal with China who I met with in Washington are increasingly frustrated that China doesn’t even bother to pretend to tell the truth when discussing contentious issues. Very solid evidence of state-directed cyber-hacking of just about any American multinational with valuable technology and industrial trade secrets is met with the admonishment that the U.S. must cease with these “groundless accusations” that result from “ulterior motives”.

All eyes are now on Xi Jinping and the new premier, Li Keqiang. So far there are many positive signs. Their atmospherics and rhetoric are mostly progressive and positive. In their speeches both leaders have emphasized that the Chinese government needs to loosen its grip and be more of a “service oriented” government. Xi has told Party cadres to “think a little more, learn a little more” and focus on fulfilling “the Chinese dream” of job stability, quality education, higher income, reliable social security and better medical care.

As Lu Xun told his students 90 years ago: “When we look at the evolution of China we are struck by two peculiarities. One is that the old makes a comeback long after the new has appeared — in other words, retrogression. The other is that the old remains long after the new has appeared — in other words, amalgamation. This does not mean there is no evolution, however. Only it is comparatively slow, so that hotheads like myself feel that ‘one day is like three autumns’.

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Reuters: China’s urbanization drive leaves migrant workers out in the cold

Just saw this in latest news, thought you might be interested. In the road to “urbanization,” China leaves migrant workers homeless.

Twenty minutes’ drive from Shanghai’s glitzy financial district, dozens of migrant workers are preparing to abandon homes in old shipping containers, as one of the more unusual solutions to China’s housing shortage faces the wrecking ball.

Cheap but crowded neighborhoods are being cleared across China as part of a stepped-up “urbanization” campaign by China’s new leaders. The country aims to spend an estimated $6 trillion on infrastructure, including housing, as a projected 400 million people become urban residents over the next decade.

But in an ironic twist, the clearance of so-called “villages within cities” removes cheap housing stock for the very people targeted to fuel that migration, without providing sufficient replacement units. The land is sold by municipalities to developers who generally erect expensive apartment towers.

Education, Education

In the Chinese version of this blog, I repost a story from Southern Weekly about a new documentary directed by Weijun Chen, “Education, Education.” That post got 15 hits. People seem to be interested in the topic of education. Weijun Chen is the director who was nominated in Oscar with his documentary “Please Vote for Me.” “Education, Education” is a part of a project “Why Poverty?”

Three different stories build up this an hour long documentary. One is about a village girl who fails the collenge entrance examination; one is about a recent graduate from a private high learning institution who is seeking for a job; the other is a teacher at a private high learning institution called Hongbo Software School who travels to villages to fool students into registering.

Zhenxiang Wang doesn’t want to be a teacher at Hongbo because he is sick of lying and fooling people. He stayed because of the documentary. He wanted more people to know what is going on in these private-owned institutions. He resigned after finishing the documentary. The president of Hongbo Software School left with students’ tuitions and never came back. The school no longer exists.

This is why documentary can make a change to the society. Villagers do not have much information as city people. Like Zhenxiang Wang said in the documentary, they are easily fooled. By making documentaries, we can tell people these institutions are not built to educate people. They are frauds.

It is said that education is the most important thing in a country because it shapes the next generation. In my opinion, I see a lot of social issues in China can be traced back to the problem of education. Weijun Chen wanted to translate the name of this documentary into “Chinese Dream,” but the producer believes it’s better to be called “Education, Education.” I agree. Because this series is called “Why Poverty?” And I think “Education” is one of the reasons why people are in poverty.

Tell me what you think on this documentary and education issues in China or in your country. Feel free to comment.

—Jing

NHK: “Spidermen in Shanghai”

Source: Youku Video Screen Capture

Source: Youku Video Screen Capture

In the last post, “Distant Family: Chinese Migrant Workers’ Winter” produced by NHK was introduced. Today another NHK product will be discussed. The name of the documentary is “Spidermen in Shanghai.” To watch the documentary, click here or just click the picture above.

In documentaries or feature movies introduced before, migrant workers often appear as a group, without any emphasis in a specific occupation. There are all kinds of professions migrant workers do such as carpenter, bricklayer, and cementer. This documentary features a particular group of people – glass cleaners for skyscraper, who are also called “spidermen.” It uses spidermen in Shanghai as representatives.

There are two lines in the documentary based on two representative characters: one is Sun, Huicheng from Huai’an, Jiangsu province; the other is Yuan, Zihua from Jiujiang, Jiangxi province. Resemblance s can be easily found between these two people: first of all, they are both spidermen, secondly they are both migrant workers in Shanghai, and thirdly they live with other migrant workers who come from the same place as they do.

What do spidermen do? They swipe glass for skyscrapers. This special occupation brings the first dramatic conflict to the documentary: they make the city fresh and bright yet not being a part of that fancy picture. Their poverty and nostalgia are sharing characteristics among migrant workers. Compared with other types of migrant workers, spidermen bear another risk – their lives.

One of the spidermen said the ropes are like their chopsticks – their lives depend on them. When asked why they choose Shanghai? The answer is either “For the opportunity of making money” or “For making more money.” To serve their families for better lives, they leave them and risk their lives serving the city.

Sun, Huicheng’s wife and children are not with him and Yuan, Zihua is in Shanghai with his wife, leaving their six-year-old daughter at home. Yuan, Zihua said he dreams his daughter a lot. The family has been separated since their daughter was two months old. The wish of providing children with a better education beats the emotion of missing them. They have to stay in Shanghai and make money to support the family.

The industry of “spidermen” is still developing. Du, Zhengwei, the boss of one spidermen company said there are 1500 spidermen companies and hundreds of thousands spidermen in China. However, the demand-supply ratio is 2:1, a lot more spidermen are needed.

Two newly trained spidermen in Yuan, Zihua’s team are introduced: one is Gan, Xiqiang and the other is Wang, Wanwei. Wan spoke frankly that “No one would do the job willingly. This is life we are talking about.”

Thanks NHK for producing this documentary, revealing a special type of migrant workers. People should know what these people have done for the city and what kind of lives they are living. To use one line in this documentary to end this post, “There will be no modern city without the feed from the village.”

—Jing

NHK: Distant Family (Chinese Migrant Workers’ Winter)

NHK: Distant Family

NHK: Distant Family

I happened to see this 85 minutes long documentary produced by NHK on sohu.com, a Chinese mainstream media outlet. In the past years, NHK has produced a lot of documentaries about China. Among those documentaries, the most famous series is “Dynamic China.” It contains 13 episodes and was shown on TV in 2007 and released one episode each month.The prelude of “Dynamic China” is called “Rich Men and Migrant Workers,” we will introduce it later in this blog. Back to this documentary “Distant Family,” which depicts how Chinese migrant workers live the winter. The link to this documentary is here on sohu.com: Click Here

The main characters in this documentary are migrant workers in Tianjin harbor and the “leading role” is Zhang, Jianping. The story starts from describing the anxieties among migrant workers because there are not many working opportunities during winter. Jianping has to face the pressure from his wife. Winter seems to make his life harder than any other time of the year.

With the Spring Festival coming, the aim of “returning home with money and fame” has given these migrant workers a lot of pressure. One scene in the documentary is Zhang, Jianping and his wife Yanqiu counting the balance of that month. 370 yuan is all they have. The arm of their son is waiting to be cured. Jianping’s father, a seventy-year-old man, is taking care of their home at Hongshila Village.

A corner of migrant workers’ living conditions is reflected through Zhang, Jianping’s family. Difficulties include: migrant workers cannot get a hukou in big cities; they cannot get labor and health insurances; their income cannot even cover the basic needs; they cannot get a 100 yuan gift for their son in the most important festival in China.

The situation in Hongshila Village is even more desperate. The average income for one person in one month is 180 yuan, which is below 30 dollars a month. Hundreds of children squeeze in one little room. The biggest dream for these children is “Do not let my parents suffer from the poverty when I have grown up.” What a simple and plain wish! Many people cried for these children. In this part of the documentary, it gets a little sensational. “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” is in a way more objective.

Migrant worker is a large group in China, which is a fact I mentioned a lot in former posts. These documentaries tell us what kind of lives they are living. They should be paid more attention to. And the government should care them more by taking some actions in policies relating to migration.

—Jing

[The People's Republic of Capitalism] Episode 4: Stupid Economy


This is the last episode of “The People’s Republic of Capitalism,” “It;s the Economy, Stupid.” In this episode, the discussion about migrant workers are deeper and richer compared to the former episodes. It’s all about economy and RMB.

This episode starts from the school building collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. Thousands of students died. Many news outlets mentioned that this school building is a “Tofu-Dregs Project” which is a term referring to bad construction projects. However, no official statistic has provided any information on the exact number of students who died in the building. Ai Weiwei, a famous documentary maker and activist in China, supported an investigation on collecting the names of students killed in the earthquake.

Then the documentary turns its lens towards construction sites and the topic of migrant workers. There are 0.7 million migrant workers in Chongqing. Factories and construction sites hire them because they are cheap. Getting a job in city is not an easy thing for them because so many people are waiting in line to get an opportunity. They work from site to site, gaining money only enough to survive.

Only old people and children remain in the village mentioned at the end of this episode because young people have rushed to Chongqing or other big cities. This is another issue caused by migration: left elderlies and children. Most of the old people don’t have pensions and insurances. Elderlies cannot get any appropriate care during illness and children are growing up without the love of their parents. Those are the situations existing in rural areas in China.

This episode also tries to discover the backbone of Chinese economy – the coal, which is another focus point of Chinese social issues. The hidden danger in coal mining is a problem Chinese media cannot touch. The reflection of coal miners in the documentary is quite objective. It didn’t exaggerate the fact that there are a lot of unqualified mines in China. Instead it chose a mine which is in good condition and has a relatively complete protection system.

The interviewed coal miner said, “My wife love RMB more than me.” Everything serves for the money. As Vincent Lo said, “No one will consider China as a communist.” However, the name of this episode called the economy “stupid.” I guess in the process of chasing for money, we have lost something after all.

—Jing