On June 22, 2010, the 60th anniversary of the establishment
of Workers’ Union of Shaanxi
Province, Mr Zhang, the vice president of the Shaanxi
Union, posted an article on union's official website, citing
that his organization had been responded and would keep responding
positively to the call by Chinese President Hu Jintao to
“make sure all workers having the rights to take part in
the union’s activities, access the union’s information, participate
in the union’s decision-making process and monitor the union’s
“Let it start from me and begin with a practical matter
at hand, no matter how trivial that issue might be (要从我做起，从小事做起，从具体工作做起。),”
declared Zhang, sounding rather sincere to anyone who reads
his online post.
He was not boasting. At the time of writing his article,
he was busying himself with a not really trivial but extremely
practical matter at his hand that was to ensure Mr Zhao Dongming
(赵东民) to be convicted of criminal offence and to be condemned
to years in jail. By then his union had already successfully
got Zhao detained for 10 months without charge, and by then
he and his colleagues had already witnessed, probably with
satisfaction, that Zhao had been repeatedly denied a right
to visit his wife who was gravely ill.
What crime Zhao committed that earns him such strong hostility
from the union officials and such harsh treatment by the
Let’s start from union boss Zhang and begin with a practical
matter raised by a group of workers who demanded Zhang to
take on at hand.
It was on June 15, 2009. In that morning the union office
was visited by 150 retrenched workers who believed they were
badly let down when they were laid off by their respective
state-owned factories that were in the middle of the “reform”,
which in recent China normally means only one thing – privatization
of the public enterprises and organizations and institutions.
They handed in an open letter with a list of urgent issues
that they wanted the union to help them to address and asked
the union chief to sign on an agreement that they would report
back the progress of their negotiation with the related parties
in ten days. The agreement was signed on a paper slip and
the workers left the union building without drama.
Ten days later, the workers returned. This time, they invited
a lawyer coming with them. The lawyer is Zhao Dongmin, a
guy well-known for his passion to provide legal aid (often
free of charge) to the weak and the poor, for which he received
award from the authorities. But he could not have envisaged
by then that this time his service would not earn him an
acclaim but a total destruction of his professional career
and his personal life.
According to the video clip that captured the event, the
meeting was orderly and cordial in the beginning, and two
union officials gave a short welcome speech to the re-visiting
members. But when asked what the progress was regarding the
issues they raised ten days earlier, the officials hinted
that they didn’t believe they had to share the information
with the members. It was by then the atmosphere in the meeting
hall became tense, and union boss Zhang thus emerged in the
Zhang tried to bring the situation under the control and
asked the workers to elect a representative to speak to him.
Zhao Dongmin was elected unanimously. The union boss wasn’t
impressed as he didn’t seem to like to speak to a lawyer.
In the sharp verbal exchange between the two men, the lawyer
at one point reminded the union boss that by law the workers
had rights to check how the job was done by the union, and
the union boss was clearly very upset for being forced to
take a legal lesson.
A month later, the lawyer was arrested and spent more than
a year in detention without formal charge. During that time,
his distraught wife got ill, but the pleas for him to see
her were repeated turned down; he was not even allowed to
visit her when she was dying, and was not even allowed to
attend her funeral. His wife died in despair and poverty
and his kids were virtually left orphaned.
National Ethics Are Hammered?