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Time for China to reassess its labour law? Many firms are ignoring it, experts say

China’s Labour Contract Law, which was meant to provide workers with protection from exploitative bosses, is being ignored by many companies in the mainland, according to two employment experts.

Left: Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin and Jonathan Isaacs, right, of Baker McKenzie’s China Employment Practice. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Left: Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin and Jonathan Isaacs, right, of Baker McKenzie’s China Employment Practice. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

A decade after the introduction of the law, more workers than ever are launching actions against their employers for non-compliance of the legislation – and the majority of them are winning, said Geoffrey Crothall of China Labour Bulletin and Jonathan Isaacs, of Baker McKenzie’s China Employment Practice.

Speaking at the January 30 club lunch, Crothall said mainland employers have flouted the law ever since it was approved in 2007. In fact, he said, between the date of approval and its implementation a year later, many companies started sacking all their long service staff to avoid having to pay large sums when they eventually left the organisation. They then started to employ workers as agency workers, which by their nature should be temporary. However, some were employed under this guise for five to 10 years, all the while subject to lower pay and poorer working conditions.

Workers were also hired as individual service providers, and even interns, to get around the new law.

“Abuse of the law was so widespread that the Chinese government had to amend the law in 2013 – people ignored that,” said Crothall.

In the case of migrant workers, only 43% are currently employed under contract – and that number is decreasing, he said.

However, there was one positive to come out of the law: it has inspired more workers to stand up to their employers. Labour disputes doubled from 300,000 per year in 2007 to 600,000 in 2008. They now stand at 800,000 per year.

Strikes by disgruntled employees were also becoming more commonplace in China, although police often surround protesting workers to prevent the strike from being seen publicly, said Isaacs. He added that an attempt by the Guangdong government to decriminalise workers strikes was slapped down by Central Government.

Of cases that have taken place in recent years in Beijing and Shanghai, around 70% of employees who individually took their employers to court won their cases, Crothall said. But, according to Isaacs, for blue collar workers who cannot afford lawyers’ fees, it’s almost impossible to bring a case to court, even with the zero fees policy in the labour law.

“What the Chinese government needs to do is address the fundamental balance of power in the workplace,” Crothall said, before adding. “What we really need is for the official trade union in China to step up and bargain on behalf of its members.”

The reputation of Chinese companies was worse than those of multinationals when it comes to upholding China’s labour laws, Isaacs said. This was because most foreign companies had already implemented a compliance culture, but also because they were afraid of damaging their image.

Change of Dining Room’s Opening Hours

Working conditions for reporters in China deteriorate – FCCC annual survey results

The Chinese government has intensified its attempts to deny or restrict the access of foreign journalists to large parts of the country while increasing the use of the visa renewal process to pressure correspondents and news organisations whose coverage it does not like, according to a new report.

Canada’s Globe and Mail Asia correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe used Twitter to spread word of his detention. Canada’s Globe and Mail Asia correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe used Twitter to spread word of his detention in China in 2017.

In December, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China surveyed correspondent members about their experiences during calendar year 2017. The results of that survey, as well as interviews with more than a dozen major media organisations and a timeline of notable incidents in 2017, form the basis of a new report, Access Denied: Surveillance, harassment and intimidation as reporting conditions in China deteriorate.

The report shows a significant rise in the number of foreign correspondents who believe journalism in China has grown more difficult amid rising pressures from authorities seeking to block newsgathering in areas they deem sensitive, such as Xinjiang, the border with North Korea and industrial areas. There was also no let up in 2017 in violent attacks against foreign journalists and intimidation of news sources, which continued alongside growing concerns about surveillance and invasions of privacy.

Correspondents surveyed by the FCCC also reported greater difficulties in renewing their visas. The FCCC is aware of five international news organisations that experienced visa difficulties in 2017 that appeared to be reporting-related. Those difficulties included lengthy delays in approval, the issuance of credentials with unusually short validity and outright refusal by Chinese authorities to provide accreditation.

“China-based foreign correspondents have long faced obstruction, harassment and intimidation for doing their jobs but this report will make depressing reading for even the most seasoned of them,” the FCCC Board said.

“Our survey results provide strong evidence to suggest that, from an already very low baseline, reporting conditions are getting worse.”

“Anyone who values independent news from China – news about the nature of its government, the state of its economy and the lives of its people – should be deeply alarmed by the serious, mounting pressure applied to the journalists trying to supply it.”

2017 KEY FINDINGS

The following results are based on a survey of journalists who belong to the Foreign Correspondents’ of Club of China in Beijing. The survey was completed by 117 of 218 correspondent members. More detailed results are in the full report.

•       40% of respondents felt reporting conditions in 2017 deteriorated from the year before, compared with 29% in the FCCC’s 2016 survey

•       Reporting grew more difficult in many areas of China, but in particular Xinjiang, China’s westernmost region. 73% of respondents who traveled to Xinjiang in 2017 were told by officials and security agents that reporting was prohibited or restricted, compared with 42% in 2016 

•       15% of respondents said they encountered problems during the renewal process, up from 6% the previous year. Compared to 2016, twice the number of respondents said the problems were related to their reporting. 6% of respondents were threatened with cancellation or non-renewal of visas in 2017, up from 2% in the FCCC’s previous survey 

•       Correspondents reported higher levels of concern about surveillance and invasion of privacy, as well as greater pressure by overseas Chinese officials on media organisation headquarters 

•       Nearly half of surveyed correspondents said they experienced interference, harassment and physical violence, roughly in line with 2016 

•       News sources in China continued to face negative consequences for interacting with a foreign journalist. 26% of surveyed correspondents said sources had been harassed, detained or called in for questioning, roughly in line with 2016 

Ex-Hong Kong Home Secretary Patrick Ho bribery case ‘an attempt by the U.S. to embarrass China’

The reason United States prosecutors “went after” former Hong Kong Home Secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping over alleged bribery is because they want to “squeeze” him for information on Chinese companies that routinely bribe foreign officials, according to veteran New York criminal defence lawyer Robert Precht.

Robert Precht discusses the Patrick Ho case at the FCC on January 29, 2018. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Robert Precht discusses the Patrick Ho case at the FCC on January 29, 2018. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

And it’s highly likely that President Donald Trump’s administration is using the case in an attempt to embarrass China, Precht said, via the far-reaching US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) which means companies and persons can be held criminally and civilly responsible for corruption offences committed abroad.

Ho is currently in a high-rise Manhattan jail awaiting trial on charges that he made millions of dollars in bribes to African officials to obtain lucrative oil rights for a Chinese conglomerate. If convicted he faces 20 years in prison.

Precht, President of Justice Labs, a legal think tank based in New York, said the case was likely to produce incriminating evidence about companies with close ties to the Chinese government.

Precht said the evidence against Ho, Hong Kong’s Secretary of Home Affairs between 2002 and 2007, was “absolutely overwhelming”. Much of it, he said, was based on intercepted emails. “My defence would be that he has to be innocent because no one would be so stupid to lay out their guilt [in emails],” Precht added.

Ho is accused alongside former Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio of offering a US$2 million bribe to the president of Chad for oil rights on behalf of CEFC China Energy (CEFC), a Shanghai-based energy company, while in New York at the U.N. Gadio is not named on the indictment, Precht said, indicating that he was involved in a plea bargain. CEFC has denied authorising Ho to engage in corrupt practices.

Although Ho pleaded not guilty to the charges at a hearing earlier this month, Precht said it was likely prosecutors would put him under enormous pressure to change his plea.

Precht explained that the FCPA gives America the power to prosecute people it believes to be involved in corrupt practices where it could claim jurisdiction. For example, an email sent from overseas that passes through an American server can give prosecutors jurisdiction. In Ho’s case, meetings took place in the U.S., and additionally Ho created an NGO in Virginia, funded by CEFC which made the case a “domestic concern” for America.

The problem of Chinese companies bribing foreign officials in return for lucrative contracts was extremely widespread, Precht said, adding that he hoped that this case would prompt the Chinese government to crack down on it.

Part of the Main Bar & Lounge will be temporary closed

 

Dear members,

Temporary Closure

Please be informed that part of the below area will be temporary closed for repairing of AC Units and Emergency Lights.

Location: Main Bar & Lounge
Date: March 30 – 31, 2018
Time: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

During the closure period, there will be dust and noise disturbance. Your kind understanding and patience would be much appreciated.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

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Electric cars, driverless vehicles, and subscriptions: How Volvo plans to stay ahead of the curve

The future of automobiles is electric – and driverless – according to Volvo Cars president Håkan Samuelsson, whose company recently signed a contract to supply 24,000 ‘robotaxis’ to Uber.

Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars CEO, discussed the company's success under Chinese ownership. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars CEO, discussed the company’s success under Chinese ownership. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

And from 2019, the Swedish car maker, which was bought by Chinese firm Geely Holdings in 2010 after suffering losses as a result of the financial crisis two years before, will only produce hybrid and electric cars, ditching the combustion-propelled vehicles it has made since it was founded in 1927.

FCC members and guests were given a glimpse of the future as Samuelsson outlined the company’s ambitious plans during the January 23 club lunch, made possible since it was bought by Geely, a move that gave Volvo record sales last year.

“We have a very motivated workforce right now,” Samuelsson said, giving his thoughts on what has driven the company’s record sales. “A big part of the growth is coming from China, which it should as it’s the largest car market in the world.”

Indeed, five years ago, according to Samuelsson, Volvo sold under a thousand cars in China. Last year, 114,000 were sold – manufactured at its Chengdu factory. But China is not the only foreign soil to be producing the world’s safest car: it is set to open “the most sustainable automotive plant in the United States” in Charleston, South Carolina, this year. Pre-production of the new Volvo S60 will start in the first half of 2018 and serial production in the third quarter.

However, when asked why Geely had recently bought a major stake in truck manufacturer AB Volvo, and what the long term plan was for that arm of the company, Samuelsson declined to answer.

The company has also introduced a subscription car service, allowing motorists to get a new vehicle for a flat monthly fee which includes insurance, maintenance and service. “With our subscription, you have one flat price in the whole country,” he said.

Samuelsson, who joined the company seven years ago, was in Hong Kong attending the around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race as it made its first ever stop in the city. However, the event has been overshadowed by tragedy following the death of a fisherman in Hong Kong waters after a fishing vessel collided with a boat taking part in the race. When Samuelsson was asked about the tragedy, he said: “Of course we have to find out how this happened, but it’s really tragic. I feel a lot for these people being out, trying to make their living fishing. We will of course try to learn from it and see it should never happen again.”

Income Statement – December 2017

December 9, 2017 Board minutes

We’re keeping an eye on it: Macau journalists’ association on its fight to safeguard press freedom

Journalists in Macau still enjoy a level of press freedom despite incidents such as the barring of Hong Kong reporters into the enclave following Typhoon Hato in 2016, says the president of the Macau Portuguese and English Press Association (AIPIM).

José Carlos Matias spoke about press freedom in Macau on January 18, 2018. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC José Carlos Matias spoke about press freedom in Macau on January 18, 2018. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

And while publications in the Special Administrative Region receive government subsidies, this has not affected the integrity of the Portuguese or English language newspapers, said AIPIM president José Carlos Matias, emphasising that this was his opinion. He added that he was unable to comment on Chinese language publications.

The 30 square kilometre former Portuguese colony, has the highest concentration of media in the world, with a staggering 18 daily newspapers (in Chinese, Portuguese and English) to serve the 648,000 population. Additionally it has 19 weeklies, two TV and radio stations.

In recent years, Macau has been the focus of fears over press freedom. In August 2016, four journalists – one from HK01, one from South China Morning Post and two from Apple Daily – were denied entry to Macau in the wake of the devastating Typhoon Hato. The government cited that they ‘posed a threat to the stability of the territory’s internal security’.

“The explanation by the authorities we found particularly hard to understand to say the least,” Matias told FCC guests. “We have to keep an eye on this problem that is becoming relatively common.”

In a separate incident, Portuguese-language weekly, Plataforma, was ordered by the Electoral Affairs Commission for the Legislative Assembly Election (CAEAL) to remove from its online edition an interview with a candidate of the Legislative Assembly elections. Matias explained that in Macau there is a period between publication of candidate lists and the start of the campaign during which electoral propaganda is banned. However, AIPIM issued a statement at the time that said: “AIPIM deplores this situation, stressing that it is perplexing that news content, such as an interview, can be considered electoral propaganda.”

Soon after, AIPIM conducted a survey among around half of its journalist members that highlighted a growing trend among authorities to limit access to information to reporters. Matias said that part of the issue was the shortage of bilingual translators working in the judiciary and government departments, where the predominant language is Chinese.

The survey, analysed by an independent third party committee of experts, also found that 80% of journalists believed there was press freedom in Macau; 70% didn’t face violation of press freedom rights; and 76% dealt with different types of restraint.

Matias said that future aims of the AIPIM include conducting new surveys to go deeper into the challenges faced by journalists; and to deepen ties with Chinese journalists’ associations to promote press freedom and access to information.

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