China’s people and its media have defied state censorship to condemn the government’s development drive, which is coming with a terrible cost.
After a high-speed rail crash on 24 July which killed 39 people, questions are being asked about the real motivations behind projects such as the high-speed railway and the Jiaozhou Bay sea-bridge, which opened in late June 2011 despite fears that it was not safe.
In the immediate aftermath of the rail crash, the Chinese government appeared unwilling to respond to questions about the incident and attempted to prevent the national media from probing too deeply into what had happened, leading to accusations of a cover-up. The high-speed railway was also involved in significant controversy earlier in the year when a state audit revealed corruption and embezzlement by its financial backers. The clear signal is that, for the Chinese government, “development” is not aimed at improving the lives of Chinese people but at improving the finances of the country’s super-rich and improving the state’s position as a major world-player in international trade.
China’s flagship newspaper, The People’s Daily, (usually supportive of the state) said that China does not need economic growth that is smeared in blood.
China’s workers, without whom projects like the high-speed railway and the Jiaozhou Bay bridge could never have been built in the first place, hold the key to overthrowing a state power that puts profits and prestige first and human life second.
In South Korea, Police used water cannon and tear gas against 10,000 Korean workers and their families marching to a Hanjin Heavy Industries shipyard on July 9-10.
Kim Jin-suk, who was sacked by the company in 1987, and who is now a leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, has been occupying — 35 metres up in a shipyard’s crane since January — to protests against job losses.
Arrest warrants for union leaders have been issued and some 50 supporters have been arrested and released. The company is suing for 5.3 billion won in damages. Under Korea’s Penal Code 314, or “Obstruction of Business”, companies are allowed to file criminal charges and seek imprisonment or damages claims against individuals and unions taking legitimate industrial action.
The dispute started in December, when Hanjin workers walked out in protest against the planned layoff of 400 workers. The company, in turn, closed the shipyard.
•See www.labourstart.org for more details and an email urgent action appeal.