A trade union body in Hong Kong has called for the release of more than 30 former workers at a factory in neighboring Guangdong province and the Maoist labor activists who were supporting them.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) staged a protest outside the ruling Chinese Communist Party's liaison office in the city on Thursday, demanding the release of 34 people detained for campaigning for a labor union at Jasic Technology's factory in Shenzhen.
"Support the Jasic Workers - not guilty!" some 30 protesters shouted outside the Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong. "Condemn the shameless detentions!"
According to the Jasic Workers' Solidarity Group, a loose coalition of Maoist social activists, many of whom have also been involved in China's #MeToo feminist movement, former Jasic workers Mi Jiuping, Yu Juncong, Liu Penghua, and Li Zhan have been in criminal detention since the initial wave of arrests began in July.
Nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers Fu Changguo, Wang Xiaomei and He Xiumei and local trade union activists Zou Liping and Li Ao are also being held on criminal charges in Shenzhen.
Dozens more students and recent graduates of China's top universities have been "disappeared" or criminally detained since the nationwide crackdown on the Jasic labor movement made further waves of arrests and detentions in August, September and November, the JWSG reported on its Github page.
Among them are Sun Yat-sen University graduate and Jasic movement spokeswoman Shen Mengyu and Peking University #MeToo campaigner Yue Xin.
The HKFTU said it is "especially enraged" at the authorities' treatment of Fu Changguo and Zhang Zeying, wife of Li Zhan.
Zhang was detained on Jan. 2 for speaking out on social media about her husband's case, and the couple's newborn baby has been taken into state custody, it said.
Fu was denied permission to attend his mother's funeral last week, the organization said in a statement on its website.
"He was arrested merely because he shared news of the Jasic labor struggle on various [social media] groups with his friends and associates," the statement said.
"Such restrictions are blatant violations of their basic human and legal rights that transgress all humanitarian standards," it said.
‘People as its enemy’
HKFTU leader Lee Cheuk-yan said the body hopes to boost international support for the Jasic detainees.
"These workers and supporters exercised their basic and internationally recognized freedom of association," Lee said. "Any worker in the world has the right to organize independent trade unions without being subject to any interference or persecution, but the communist regime regards the people as its enemy."
Beijing-based activist and political commentator Zha Jianguo agreed, but added that the Communist Party under President Xi Jinping is less and less likely to allow anyone to organize.
"The Chinese government won't allow anyone to break free of the control of the Chinese Communist Party, not now, and not in the future," Zha said.
"Any actions that are outside the scope of party control will be suppressed by the Communist Party, and there will be more and more instances of this kind of suppression, without a doubt," he said.
Marxist and Maoist activists, many of them students, had flocked to Shenzhen to support the Jasic workers' cause, with some of them taking jobs in the factory.
However, dozens of members of the Jasic Workers' Solidarity Group (JWSG) were themselves detained in a mass raid on their temporary accommodation on Aug. 27.
The authorities responded with a clampdown on student activism on campus, banning Marxist study groups, and punishing students at Peking University, Renmin University and at universities in Nanjing.
In November, a rare protest on the campus of Nanjing University in the eastern province of Jiangsu over the authorities' banning of a Marxist study group sparked beatings by the authorities.
A similar fate has befallen the Marxism-Leninism Society at Peking University, while Cornell University recently withdrew from a partnership with Renmin University, citing the punishment of students who had supported the Shenzhen labor movement.
No qualms about cracking down
Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, who now heads the Dialogue China think tank in Washington, said the Chinese government has had no qualms about cracking down on anyone using Marxism or Maoism to organize in any way.
"The Marxist fundamentals that the students believe in emphasize the sacredness of labor and the equality of all people," Wang said in a recent interview with RFA.
"But ... Marxism has become the theory of using state violence to maintain a one-party dictatorship. This is the Marxism of the Chinese Communist Party under the leadership of Xi Jinping."
He said the emergence of a younger generation of politically and socially aware people has worried the government, because of the parallels with the student movements of the 1980s.
"The younger generation of college students have begun to care about social issues ... which will remind the Chinese authorities of the [protests] that took place 30 years ago," Wang said. "I think that's the main reason behind the crackdown on the students."
Reported by Lee Wang-yam for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Han Jie for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.