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DAGAinfo

13 September 2000
No. 111

 

In this issue:

1. FEATURE
Jubilee: A Dream or a Reality?
A Hong Kong Chinese Woman's Perspective

2. NEWS in Brief
Korea: Japan's Role in the Economic Integration of the Two Koreas
Sri Lanka: Statement of Understanding on Peace Process
Thailand: Women Workers Protest in front of Government House
Thailand: Pak Moon Dam Update

3. RESOURCES Received

4. Urgent APPEALS
Boycott McDonalds

5. ANNOUNCEMENT
 

1. FEATURE - top
 

Jubilee: A Dream or a Reality?
A Hong Kong Chinese Woman's Perspective

Rose Wu
Hong Kong Christian Institute

 

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed his vision of God's Jubilee:

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me
Because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
-[the year of Jubilee freedom]"   
(Luke 4:18-19).

    The concept of Jubilee is drawn from the Book of Leviticus in which a year of Jubilee is celebrated every 50 years. It is a specific time in the life of the people in which God expected justice to be restored to all those who had experienced injustice. It is a time in which God would set right the wrongs of the previous decades. It is the year that the slaves were to be set free, the debts of the poor were to be forgiven, the land was to be returned to its original owners, and the land was to be given rest (Lev. 25). In the Jubilee year, we are reminded once again that God is a God of justice and that God does not forget the poor and the oppressed.

    The invitation of Jubilee for all Christians, as well as people of other faiths and others who share the vision and commitment of the movement, is a challenge and a call to a spiritual awakening. It challenges us to examine how our individual and corporate lifestyles have broken our relationship with God, with each other, with God's Creation, and even with ourselves. It challenges us to make a direct and dynamic link between our talk of faith with our walk of faith and to engage ourselves in a ministry of joint discipleship with the poor and oppressed people in our communities and in the wider world. It urges us to return to the original wholeness of God's Creation. The wholeness of God can be described as the image of God that has to be reflected individually and collectively by God's whole Creation. We as individuals cannot become whole without at the same time helping others to become whole. God's Jubilee discards the individualistic notion of personal salvation because there cannot be liberation if the community does not survive. Our fate is bound together as one totality of life.

    In my presentation today, I will try to share with you how I do theology in light of my reflection of the present distorted reality of our world, particularly the reality of the crucified people of the Third World, and to urge my sisters and brothers of the First World to encounter the suffering poor face to face, to encounter the suffering Jesus face to face, so that we will be awakened from the sleep of our inhumanity and will choose to seek God's will and God's reality by bringing back the truth of life which manifests itself clearly in the Jubilee passages of the Bible.

As a theologian, I see that my role is to seek out God's will and to bring this will into the reality of this world. Therefore, to me, Jubilee is not a dream; it should be the reality that all Christians strive to bring about together. The following presentation will adopt the methodology of Latin America's basic Christian communities as its guiding principle, which is to see the distorted reality of the present world, to judge and analyze the present situation through the eyes of the suffering Jesus, and to act with compassion and hope. These three movements are not isolated; instead, they are interwoven like a hermeneutical spiral. Thus, it is not an ideology of methodology; rather, it is an ongoing process of conscientization-critical reflection on action-within the faith community.

What has gone wrong with the reality of our world today?

    As an Asian, Hong Kong Chinese woman, I will first outline some significant events and trends that have taken place in Hong Kong, mainland China, and Asia in general and an analysis of the cause of the problems. While the year of Jubilee primarily concerns itself with debt, the injustices of today's global economy are products of foreign investment, trade, and the policies of multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank, IMF, and WTO, as well as debt. Thus, my comments will not be confined to the issue of debt alone but will also touch on these other factors that contribute to the enslavement of the world's poor. My information is based on my personal collection of materials from many Asian regional NGOs, movement activists, theologians, and intellectuals.

Will Disneyland Save Hong Kong?

    The Asian economic crisis that erupted in 1997 not only took most of the world by surprise, but it also forced the leaders of countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea as well as Hong Kong to seek alternative models of economic development. It is, indeed, an extreme irony that the most dramatic impact of the crisis has occurred in the very countries that were held up by economists and First World government officials as models for other developing countries in the region and the world to follow.

    However, what is most unfortunate is that many Asian governments, instead of seeking to determine the real cause of the crisis, have continued to lead Asia on a path of development that will further intensify urban and rural poverty, unemployment, environmental exploitation, and cultural imperialism. One illustration of this mindset is the decision of the Hong Kong government within the past year to spend HK$230 billion or US$ 29.5 billion to build a Disneyland in Hong Kong (on average, it will cost each citizen HK$3,000 or US$385-roughly a month's pay for the poor in Hong Kong). The government believes that this is the best way to create more jobs, attract tourists, and secure Hong Kong's economic prosperity.

    Disneyland, however, is a clear illustration of the phenomenon of globalization. As we all know, globalization is not a neutral phenomenon. From a grassroots movement point of view, globalization has been closely related to "neo-colonialism," an economic model rooted in economic domination, cultural aggression, and political imperialism. Disneyland, as a large transnational corporation, produces films, music and videos, clothes, toys, children's story books, etc. Although its headquarters is located in the United States, the company owns more than 15,000 overseas factories spread all over the world. In Asia alone, its plants are found in China, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Sri Lanka, India, and Macau. According to the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee and Asia Monitor Resource Center's recent research, many of these factories not only pay very low wages to workers, but they also exploit their work force by demanding long hours of work, no holidays, and no industrial safety protection nor collective bargaining or union organizing. Thus, the workers are more easily exposed to exploitation and accidents in the workplace. We can imagine that, while the children of this country still embrace their lovely Mickey Mouse in bed, thousands of women workers are sitting in the factory working 15 hours a day and yet only earn 500 Chinese yuan or roughly US$63 a month. It is easy to see why Disney and other transnational corporations which employ the same formula are such successful companies.

    What is the price that Hong Kong and Chinese people have to pay for this Disneyland project? According to the analysis that was published by the local NGO Globalization Monitor, there are at least three problems that this Disneyland project will impose on Hong Kong (Yip Yum-chun and Si Pang-chuen, Disneyland Is Not a Happy Garden: 1999). The first is the homogenization of global culture. As Western transnational corporations are given full access to all other countries of the world, the cultural transmissions conveyed through Western television programs, films, fashion, and music not only diminish the viability of traditional local cultures and tastes, but they also hasten the standardization of markets within the Western conceptual framework. What is more threatening is that these globally distributed entertainment products will make it more difficult for the local media, families, and teachers to compete for the attention of the next generation. It will eventually take away the creativity of our children who originally carry different cultural heritages, talents, and imaginations and will gradually reduce problem-solving to the solutions found in the West.

    The second problem is the destruction of the environment and the social life of the local community. The location of the future Disneyland is on part of one of the most precious green islands in Hong Kong-Lantau Island-which belongs to all the people of Hong Kong. As you all know, Hong Kong is only a dot on a map, encompassing only 400 square miles, and yet it accommodates a large population of up to 6.8 million people. A green island, like Lantau Island, is an enormous treasure and has to be well-protected for the benefit of the people today and for their future generations. It is a free gift of God that has been bestowed to the people of Hong Kong. Now, however, our government is turning part of it into the property of a foreign enterprise to be used mainly for the profit of the Disney company.

Furthermore, the site of the future Disneyland-Penny's Bay-is on land on which several small fishing and farming villages were located. Now, because of the new airport and the Disneyland project, the priorities of the future development of the territory will be directed at the needs of tourists instead of the local community. The transformation of part of Lantau Island into Disneyland is like making God's Garden of Eden into a privatized zoo. In Hong Kong, it is almost an everyday norm to see how our public space is being transformed into privatized property. Under this new trend of so-called laissez faire policies, the human relationship is based on consumerism instead of friendship. God's Creation becomes a commodity rather than a shared resource for us to appreciate and protect.

    The third problem is the marginalization of the poor and workers. In addition to directly spending HK$230 billion for the Disney project, the Hong Kong government will also have to expend large sums of public money to construct a transportation system to get to the park and other facilities. This money represents funds that will not be available for social welfare, job retraining, and other programs to alleviate the suffering of the poor during the current economic downturn.

    Moreover, the job opportunities that are supposed to be provided by this new project are, in fact, mainly low-income jobs which usually employ migrant workers from other parts of Asia and mainland China. This project will primarily only benefit the company while local workers are forced to face competition with other migrant workers who are more vulnerable to being exposed to the double exploitation of, first of all, being a worker and, secondly, of being a migrant worker with little labor protection.

Will WTO Bring Hope to the Poor in China?

    After the long process of negotiations between Chinese officials and the United States as well as the European Union, the world is expected to pave the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization early next year. Under this process of globalization, there are two distinct development trends in the relation between labor and capital: (1) governments allow capital to dominate the relationship between labor and capital in developing countries and former socialist countries; (2) governments use administrative programs to assist capital to develop state economies. These have created imbalances between capital and labor. Sacrificing labor rights and interests to help economic development is the tacit policy of many governments.

    Although the Chinese government has emphasized that China's entry into the WTO will definitely benefit the Chinese people, labor activists, like Cai Chongguo, are deeply concerned about the impact of this accord on Chinese workers and peasants (Asia Monitor Resource Center, Asian Labor Update 32: September-November 1999). He explains that after China enters the WTO China's agricultural market will be wide open to U.S. and other transnational corporations. Since the agricultural products of the United States are 30 percent cheaper than Chinese products, such as corn and wheat, the very lives of millions of Chinese peasants will be even more at risk than they are at the present time. He worries that this will only provoke a new mass exodus of peasants off their land. More than 100 million peasants have already had to abandon their farmlands, only to be thrust into even more deplorable situations in either the special economic zones or on the outskirts of large cities where they have no social safety net of any kind, no jobs, no housing. Moreover, with this new agreement, the state-run enterprises will be more quickly abandoned, plant closures will increase, and unemployment will rise.

    It is even more heartbreaking to hear the Chinese government say that this is an inevitable "sacrifice" that must be paid so that China can be a full participant in the global economy. As Cai says, the attitude of the Chinese authorities is totally unacceptable because, based on the experiences of the past 20 years of economic reform, such reforms, carried out as they are without democracy and without independent trade unions, only result in the victimization of a large majority of the workers. While a small minority of people have benefited from reform, the majority of the population-their conditions of life and work-are far worse now than before. He concluded that it is no longer possible today to harbor any such illusions in these market reforms and agreements.

Among all workers, women workers have been the most affected during the reform of state-run enterprises in China. More than 50 percent of laid-off workers in the country are women. According to the China Daily report on International Women's Day, another five million female workers could be sacked this year. (The Chinese government has recorded 11.9 million unemployed workers as a result of the 1997 reforms of state-owned firms. By the end of 1999, about 6.5 million sacked workers remained out of work. Many economists agree that these official figures are conservative.) There are stories told and retold of hundreds of Chinese women factory workers killed and injured in just the past few years because of the country's lack of safety codes and regulations. In most cases, the women workers are locked inside their dormitories that are located in the same building as the factory's production lines and storage facilities. These three-in-one factories in which living quarters, the factory, and warehouse are combined in one building is one of the chief causes of death in China's factory fires.

    Another problem that many labor activists point out is that the consequences of China's economic restructuring have affected more than just the economic dimensions of life. From the perspective of social relationships, the original social contract has been broken, and a replacement is being attempted. In the centrally planned economic system, the State and workers effectively concluded a contract. As long as workers guaranteed political loyalty and submitted to management, the state guaranteed cradle-to-grave minimum standards in education, work, income, housing, job security, medical treatment, and retirement. Constitutional rights and obligations for citizens, especially those concerning labor, demonstrated the essence of the social contract and promoted the factory as a kind of family; but under market economic restructuring, workers are not subject to any protection by the government. Many laid-off workers are forced to undergo retraining and, told they are masters of their own destiny, to become accustomed to exclusion from the ranks of government workers.

How Much Does the North Owe to the South?

    Today many Asian people realize that neo-colonialism is not a slogan. It can be defined as political independence with increasing economic dependence, especially on the former colonial power. With the recent neo-liberal orientation of the world economy, the South has seen, even more rapidly than the North, a process of denationalization of its economy, which is more and more controlled by multinational enterprises. Meanwhile, the flow of financial capital from the South to the North has grown in a number of ways. The expatriate companies based in the imperial country continue to operate as before, to extract profits and remit them to the metropolitan center.

New processes, however, have also taken place. Among them, mechanisms of price fixing, especially of the products of the South; the repatriation of profits; the coupling of interest rates in the South with those in the North, especially for short-term investments; the export of capital to tax havens; and debt service often almost equivalent to export incomes are the primary examples. In 1999, the service of the debt alone cost the South US$200 billion. During that same year, foreign aid totaled US$50 billion. It has been calculated that the flow of capital from the South to the North is three or four times the amount of the flow from the North to the South.

    Meanwhile, the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have pressured local economies to integrate themselves into the existing neo-liberal framework and to promote the accumulation of capital. Because of the lack of an effective monitoring system, however, the debt has been accumulated without any responsible accountability.

Take, for instance, the example of Indonesia. "During the New Order period," says J. A. Winters, "the World Bank provided $30 billion in loans to the Indonesian government; but because of the existing culture of corruption, 30 percent of the aid was misappropriated. Finance has come to mean stealing and the accumulation of wealth through the public fund without control" (Winters 1999: 90). Winters describes this phenomenon as "criminal debt." For more than 30 years, the World Bank continued to give loans to Indonesia, he says, even when it knew that a large amount of the money was stolen (Winters 1999: 124). Therefore, there is enough reason for Indonesia to demand a cancellation of all, or at least part of, that criminal debt.

Consequently, based on the case of Indonesia, whose story is not unique, questions should be asked about how the debts were incurred in the first place as loans have been proffered by greedy lenders to corrupt dictators who have spent money irresponsibly or in the oppression of their own people.

Moreover, based on the analysis of Southern campaigners involved with the Jubilee movement, there is even a question about whether there is any debt to be repaid. Rather, they claim, the question should be asked whether the North is willing to pay the debt that it owes the South through centuries of colonialism in which countries in the Southern Hemisphere saw their natural resources extracted and exported at a fraction of their worth through the use of vastly underpaid labor exploited to accomplish this task. As Fr. Tissa Balasuriya of Sri Lanka and others in their statement "Remaking Memory, Reclaiming What Is Ours" explain, "The damages caused to Third World people by the North are more serious than we can imagine. If we had to calculate compensation for the unpaid labor, for grabbed land, for usurious loans, for war damages, for slavery, for genocide, for unequal exchanges, we would never end the calculation, not to mention the interest. This debt cannot be paid in full-neither morally, nor materially. Human suffering and such violations of human rights cannot be expressed in figures." The authors emphasize though that "the question of compensation cannot be avoided. It is a matter of justice." The statement lists three kinds of compensation-moral compensation, material compensation, and cultural compensation. In order to promote the demand for compensation, they have proposed the creation of a global People's Tribunal on debt to the South.

Likewise, some Asian advocates of the Jubilee movement do not demand relief from the North but restitution and reparations for the profound economic, social, political, cultural, and environmental damages wrought upon their countries and peoples through centuries of debt-related colonization and neo-colonization. They also call for actions to produce fundamental changes in today's dominant global capitalist system and for the creation of alternative people-centered socio-economic and political systems.

Jubilee: A Dream or a Reality?

    When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples two questions. The first question was, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" to which they replied, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked the second question, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

    Following Jesus' methodology, my theological question here then concerns not whether but how does Jubilee become a reality of life? To me, these two questions represent two different levels of meaning. The first question stays on the level of merely an academic pursuit or an objective analysis while the second question is a real theological question, for it involves personal commitment or a faith stance.

    How Jubilee becomes a reality of life implies three theological meanings. The first meaning is that, as Christians, we must use a lens of faith to see Jubilee as a reality of God and, therefore, a reality of life. It is a deeply spiritual challenge which requires our radical faith in God-a God who is life, a God who defends the poor, a God of liberation and resurrection, a God of justice and hope. In contrast to God's reality, the existing reality of poverty and suffering is the most vigorous denial of God's will. Therefore, the second meaning of our theological question is to name the evils that obstruct God's will, that is, in what ways does this sinful reality destroy the beauty and harmony of God's Creation, an investigation that requires us to dig into both the structural and spiritual nature of human sin. The third meaning is to take action to recover God's justice and to seek reconciliation. This implies not only the eradication of sin but also the forgiveness of the sinners, and yet, only when the crucified peoples are prepared to offer forgiveness and to move all humanity to struggle against the sinful reality can reconciliation be possible. Again, these three levels of theological meaning echo the guiding principle of the hermeneutical spiral of see, judge, act.

    What is the reality of God though? From the Biblical passage of Lev. 25:5-12, we see clearly that God is not an abstract concept of the divine; rather, God is the connecting power of relationality. It is God's desire to call us to return to the reality of life-a totality of life. Only when we understand the survival of the entire Creation can we appreciate the wholeness of God's sacred reality, that is, our respect for Nature's integrity and our pursuit of human justice are interconnected.

    In naming the evils of today's world, the first evil which I want to point out is the culture of domination which, in fact, is embedded in our Christian ideologies. Rita Nakashima Brock points out that the Father God who comes to symbolize male dominance has legitimized the power of the Church to subordinate women to male authorities. Furthermore, many ecofeminists recognize that violence against the vulnerability of Creation, the rape of the Earth, and the negligence of the rights of future generations are all part of the general structure of inequality and subjugation that are found in forms of sexism, patriachalism, heterosexism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, classism, and hierachicalism as well as cultural imperialism. I agree with feminist theologian Rosemary R. Ruether that "there can be no liberation for women and no solution to the ecological aims within a society whose fundamental model of relationships continues to be one of domination" (Rosemary Radford Ruether, NewWoman/New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation: 1975).

    The second evil is human greed and individualism which form the basis for, as well as the outcome of, the world's dominant economic system. It is very right to quote Gandhi's dictum in this context: "There is enough wealth in the world to meet everybody's needs, but not to meet one person's greed." The unequal growth of finance capital has created a casino economy characterized by vulnerability and insecurity as has been shown by the latest economic crisis in Asia. Following this trend, our world eventually will reach unsustainable proportions. The moral perversity of economic liberalism which promotes human progress in terms of competition, efficiency, and consumerism has been accepted by most people without question. To me, the evilness of the laissez faire capitalist system and free markets is that it creates class oppression, destroys the community, and distorts the holistic reality of God and life. One reason why human greed and individualism have become such dominant traits of human nature is because there is no love and care in our community. When our society is influenced by the ideology of the "survival of the fittest," the only survival skill that people learn is to compete and to beat other people down. Eventually, we will lose our ability to love and care for each other.

    What kind of actions can we take to restore God's justice and reconciliation? We must first create an ethic of care for community-building. We must recognize that human beings are not only interrelated; they are also interdependent beings. Furthermore, we must make the clear connection between our local problems and the multinational corporate drive for economic and political globalization, and we must challenge the damage that world trade and foreign investment have done to the poor and the environment. One strategy to counter globalization is to emphasize local production for local consumption, to reduce global trade, and yet to build networks with groups in other countries that seek alternative and sustainable ways of development at the global level which eventually will benefit the common good of all people. In order to do this, we have to shift the accepted notion of upward mobility with its vertical concept of progress into a downward and horizontal model of development. This new model emphasizes the sharing of resources instead of competition, participation instead of exclusion, life-energizing work instead of merely profit making activities. This action of faith is based on our corporate repentance, that is, a return to the reality of God which Jubilee reflects.

    In terms of responding to global debt, I agree with the view of the Jubilee South campaign that all of the foreign debt of the South must be cancelled as it was, in reality, loans to the corrupt elites of the South, not the people of the South. Moreover, as earlier explained, centuries of colonialism have, if anything, made the North the debtor region of the world, not the South, for the loans to the South in the 20th century were built on the foundation of the capital acquired through five centuries of economic and political exploitation. With the funds that would be used for debt servicing, governments in Asia and elsewhere in the South must meet the educational, health, and social welfare needs of their people. Lastly, we must drastically alter the global economic system so that redistributing wealth, both between countries and within countries, rather than mere economic growth becomes the driving force of the world economy. In this way, it is hoped that in 2050 there will no debt for anyone, anywhere, to repay.

    As a faith community, our challenge is to discern the reality of God, to hold and keep faith in the goodness of God. The cross on which God was placed is the most eloquent proclamation that God loves the crucified people of this world. On that cross, God's love was nailed. At that point in time, God's love seemed impotent, yet it was visible and painfully real. It is from this perspective that the theology of hope can make sense to all of us. To me, hope reflects a trust in the goodness of a God who listens and responds to our communal lament. Hope requires us to make a choice between faith and idolatry, to say No to this world's evil and to say Yes to God's mercy and justice. Without such a dialectic formulation, faith remains abstract and empty. On the other hand, hope also requires us to have compassion for "the other" who is larger than the self. Only through our sense of connecting with "the other" as neighbors-making someone else's pain our very own and allowing that pain to move us to respond-can we grasp a glimpse of hope for life. To me, this hope is based on our commitment to enter into the communal lament, to repent, and seek a justice-filled future together as a community.

**
[Rose Wu is the director of the Hong Kong Christian Institute, an ecumenical institution committed to : to interpret the Hong Kong situation to overseas Christians and to introduce ecumenical activities and thinking to local Christians. The above paper was presented at the recent Pan Asian American conference of the United Church of Christ.]

 

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

KOREA

Japan's Role in the Economic Integration of the Two Koreas

***** NEAPS NETWORK SPECIAL REPORT *****

The historic summit held between North and South Korea in June has raised expectations that the two Koreas will reunify sooner rather than later. Prime Minister Mori went so far as to compare the summit to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Unification of the two Koreas is probably still many years off, but the summit may signal the start of a gradual economic integration of the two Koreas. In the joint declaration signed by Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il on June 15, the two leaders vaguely pledged to promote "economic cooperation." However, as with the declaration itself, the pledge is vague on the precise forms of economic cooperation that will take place. It remains unclear if North Korea's leaders are prepared to accept Kim Dae-jung's bold offer of engagement and reform their emaciated economy. If they are, this will be a far greater task than the two Koreas are capable of handling by themselves. The international community will be critical in this process, and no government or organization could have a greater potential impact than Japan. Yet, just as the North's intentions are obscure, it is also unclear what role Japan will decide to play.

Will a Unified Korea be Japan's Friend or Foe?

Japan is approaching a critical juncture in its relations with the Korean Peninsula. The extent to which Japan plays an active role in the revitalization of the North Korean economy and economic integration of the two Koreas will shape the nature of Japan's relationship with a post-unification Korea. Japan has an opportunity to play a central role in the resuscitation of the North Korean economy. If Japan fails to live up to its responsibilities and expectations, Koreans will not soon forget. After all, Koreans still observe the anniversary of Hideyoshi's invasion of the peninsula--an event that took place more than 400 years ago.

Despite all the hugs and handshakes, the summit has not changed my basic assumption that unification is still in the distant future. In a survey I conducted last summer of leading Korea watchers from Asia, Europe and the United States, more than two-thirds predicted that unification was more than ten years away. While a sudden collapse cannot be completely ruled out, there are no indications that the North faces imminent collapse.

Whether the North ultimately experiences a soft or a crash landing, when the two countries do unify the task of raising North Korea's economy to the level of the South's will take decades. Thus, the unification process will take the better part of the next century to complete. Even if it is too soon for Japanese to start looking over their shoulders, now is the time to chart a course of action for the role Japan will play in North-South economic integration. That role will impact the extent to which the two countries remain allies or become adversaries.

The Prospects for Economic Reform in North Korea

The summit raises the same question that arose when the two Koreas signed the Basic Agreement in 1991: Is the North ready to begin the process of economic reform and deepen its economic linkages with the South? With his power consolidated but the economy in shambles, Kim Jong-il seems to have concluded that he has no choice but to respond positively to President Kim Dae-jung's engagement policy. Kim Jong-il has surprised most North Korea watchers by meeting three times in the span of a year with Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-young to discuss economic cooperation projects. Moreover, Kim's comments during his visit to China in late May suggest that he may be prepared to "improve" (the North loathes the word "reform") the North Korean economy.

The decision by the North to tentatively accept Kim Dae-jung's overture does not resolve the fundamental dilemma confronting North Korea's leaders: how to resuscitate the North Korean economy through expanded outside investment and trade without jeopardizing their grip on power. Thus, the North's efforts to undertake reform and economic cooperation are likely to be modest. Even China, often cited as a model for economic reform in North Korea, is still grappling with privatization more than 20 years after Deng Xio-ping initiated the reform process.

The economic challenges facing North Korea are daunting. The 1990s was the lost decade for the North, with the economy shrinking by more than one-third. According to the latest data from the Bank of Korea, North Korea grew 6.2 percent last year. However, this figure is highly misleading, as much if not all of the growth is due to increased unilateral transfers from abroad. More tellingly, exports continued to fall; 1999 exports were only slightly more than one-quarter of 1990 levels. Humanitarian assistance has at least stopped the economy's bleeding. More importantly, thanks to foreign donations, the food situation has improved. North Korean leaders can now turn to the task of reviving the economy. The best-case scenario would be for Kim Jong-il or one of his subordinates (via a coup) to emerge as the North's equivalent of Park Chung-hee--the South Korean general-turned-president who led South Korea's rapid economic development in the 1960s and 1970s. Only time will tell if the North has such a leader.

North-South Economic Cooperation

North and South Korea are poised to turn a new page in their economic relationship. What began as a trickle of economic exchanges in the late 1980s has become a river under Kim Dae-jung. Two-way trade (the South Korean government counts some humanitarian assistance programs as trade) reached an all-time high $333 million in 1999, nearly doubling since 1992. However, the figure is only one-sixth of trade between China-Taiwan. The China-Taiwan experience shows that the best insurance policy against hostilities may be deepening economic linkages. The more the North depends on the South and the outside world for assistance, the less likely it will be to lash out.

More than 130 companies are doing business in the North, but none has made a profit yet. The biggest venture to date is the Hyundai Group's tours of the fabled Mt. Kumgang. 250,000 South Koreans have visited so far, but what really seems to have gotten the North Korean leadership's attention is the payment Hyundai makes for each visitor to the North. Hyundai must pay the North $150 million a year in cash. Hyundai's Mt. Kumgang tours may have paved the way for expanded investment in the North, but they have also set a troubling precedent. It is undoubtedly gratifying to see large numbers of South Koreans visiting the North, but the project has hemorrhaged red ink. By some estimates, Hyundai loses seven won for every one that it takes in. Given Hyundai's precarious financial situation, it remains to be seen whether it will recoup some or all of this loss from the government.

Nevertheless, the Mt. Kumgang project can help lay the foundations for expanded trade and investment. These projects can lead to the establishment of credible rules and regulations on investment, which are commonly cited as the biggest concern among potential foreign investors. In addition, since the North's poor infrastructure remains a formidable barrier to foreign investment, South Korean firms will likely target power generation and transmission, roads, and telecommunications projects. In manufacturing, processing on commission trade has proven to be one of the most promising areas of economic cooperation between North and South Korea over the past decade. The North's low wages and well educated workforce (not to mention common language) are attractive to South Korea's low-tech (especially textile) industries. Ultimately, South Korean firms will have to show that it is possible to make a profit before non-Korean investors will enter in significant numbers. Thus, private sector investment in the North is likely to be very modest for the foreseeable future.

One of the first real litmus tests of the North's commitment to economic engagement will be the location of an industrial park proposed by Hyundai. Pyongyang has been reluctant to accept Hyundai's choice of Haeju, a location that features a major port which is close to significant population centers and close to the South. Should the North instead chose the remote Shineuiju, this would signal that the regime has concluded that the risks of societal contamination outweigh the potential economic benefits of outside investment. One of the most encouraging recent developments is Kim Jong-il's proposal to reestablish rail links between North and South Korea to facilitate the export of minerals, one of North Korea's only (licit) exports. Ultimately, the public sector will be the locus of economic interaction with the North.

The Cost of Unification

Even under the most optimistic scenarios, the North will not be able to narrow the gap in income disparity with the South prior to unification. Economic integration of the two Koreas will be a long and expensive process. The North's per capita income in 1999 was only 1/12 that of the South's. In contrast, East German incomes were roughly 1/3 that of the West's at the time of unification. According to a recent report by Goldman Sachs, the total cost of unification is likely to be in the trillions of dollars. Just raising North Korea's infrastructure to international standards has been estimated to cost $50 billion. At least $10 billion is needed to reconnect North and South Korean rail lines and establish special economic zones, according to a report by the Samsung Economic Research Institute. Unfortunately, the South Korean government's North-South Cooperation Fund has only $400 million available. The role of outside players, and particularly Japan, will be crucial.

Japan's Role

To a large extent, the fate of North-South economic integration will depend on the role of non-Korean investment, especially that from Japan. The United States has been the single largest source of unilateral transfers to North Korea since 1995, including over $140 million in 1999. However, this was almost exclusively for food aid and heavy fuel oil for the light water reactor projects as part of the 1994 Agreed Framework. In recent years the Clinton Administration has had to struggle with Congress for funding approval in order to fulfill its commitment, so the prospects for increased transfers are remote. North Korea's "charm offensive" to establish ties with a host of foreign countries is likely to have only a modest effect on foreign aid inflows. If North Korea is allowed to join international financial institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (a move which Japan and the United States have blocked), several hundred million dollars a year could be loaned to the North for infrastructure projects. However, this would still be billions of dollars short of the levels needed to resuscitate the North Korean economy. Japan, along with China, remains as North Korea's financial lifeline to the outside world. Korean residents in Japan loyal to the North send hundreds of millions of dollars a year in cash and goods to the North. However, support for North Korea has waned in recent years, and transfers to Japan are estimated to be down by as much as 50%. Little is known about how this money is spent.

The economic package connected to the normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea represents the single greatest potential stimulus to the North Korean economy. Not only does Japan have the greatest financial obligation to the North, it is also likely to possess the most detailed information about North Korea's infrastructure needs as a result of its colonial experiences on the peninsula. If North Korea is serious about reviving its economy, it will choose to normalize relations sooner rather than later. According to a report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service released in April, estimates of the total Japanese aid package for North Korea range from $3.4 billion to over $20 billion--enough to begin to address North Korea's infrastructure needs.

The North Korea of today still has a significantly higher per capita GNP than South Korea in 1965, the year Japan normalized relations with the South. South Korean President Park Chung- hee was pragmatic enough to recognize the potential role of Japanese capital and technology transfers in South Korea's economic development and was able to overcome the Korean people's deep antipathy toward Japan. Japan's $800 million aid and loan package for South Korea played a critical role in South Korea's rapid economic development. For example, Pohang Iron and Steel, one of the leading steel producers in the world today, might not exist were it not for the infusion of Japanese capital in the 1960s. The fact that North Korea asked to have normalization talks resume after a seven-year hiatus suggests that it may finally be prepared to place pragmatism above nationalism.

As normalization talks proceed, the challenge will be to tie as much of the aid package as possible to specific projects rather than outright transfers. Even if the North accedes to this condition, building up North Korea's infrastructure will be a daunting task. The Nautilus Institute's Peter Hayes, one of the leading specialists on North Korea's energy needs, cautions in a recent article, "North Korea simply cannot absorb much external assistance very quickly." A quick shot in the arm will not solve North Korea's basic infrastructure needs. Multi-year plans will have to be devised and strict monitoring requirements put in place.

Economic assistance and cooperation with North Korea stands as one of the most effective means of overcoming the lingering mistrust between Japan and the two Koreas. As North and South Korea enter into what will hopefully be an era of reconciliation and economic cooperation, Japan is in a unique position to facilitate this process. The challenges are formidable. North Korea will not change overnight and may still at times resort to biting the hand that attempts to feed it. Several political obstacles must also be overcome, foremost being the resolution of missing Japanese citizens believed to be held in North Korea and a reduction of the missile threat posed by North Korea.

These challenges will require a Japanese government with vision and leadership. In a country best known for having a "following policy" rather than a "foreign policy," this will not be easy, especially in light of the weak coalition government elected last month. Moreover, Japan's own economic malaise and burgeoning government budget deficit make the thought of providing North Korea with billions of dollars in economic assistance far from appetizing to many Japanese. Nevertheless, Japan has an opportunity to help insure that a unified Korea remains Japan's ally. In addition, if economic engagement with the North is successful, the Japanese economy stands to reap handsome returns, just as it did in the late 1960s after normalization of relations with South Korea. If North Korea demonstrates that it is serious about establishing relations with Japan and takes genuine steps to address Japanese concerns, the Japanese government should be prepared to respond accordingly.

 

Sri Lanka

Bangkok Statement of Understanding on Peace Process in Sri Lanka

Twenty-eight participants from the civil society from Sri Lanka and India met in Bangkok, Thailand from 31 August to 2 September for Peace Audit Exercise on the Sri Lanka Peace Process. This meeting on peace process in Sri Lanka was organized by the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR). At the end of the meeting the group agreed on the following statement of understanding:

We the participants at the Peace Audit Exercise on the Sri Lanka Peace Process being deeply concerned about the prevailing situation stressed the importance of greater democratization of the pursuit of peace and the primary role of civil society in this regard. The concentration of peace process at the highest levels of political decision-making has restricted the space for wider participation of the people and has been a key factor in contributing to the lack of progress. This lack of progress in turn further reinforces militarisation and polarization of society and has lead to the intense suffering of all the peoples of Sri Lanka, particularly those living in the combat zones.

In recognition of our complete opposition to the war and the crucial need for a viable civil society agenda for peace, we focused on four themes and identified courses of action to further the peace process: i). Review of the peace process; ii). humanitarian issues and the peace and reconciliation process; iii). media and peace activism and iv). women in conflict and peace making.

We feel that any genuine solution to the problem must include the following factors:

  • Recognition of the diversity and respect for the human rights and democratic rights of all the peoples of Sri Lanka irrespective of their numerical strength as communities; taking into consideration the serious deterioration of the democratic system in Sri Lanka the reform of institutions and processes of governance.

  • Proposals for devolution and power sharing must instill faith and confidence in the democratic and non-violent forms of conflict resolution and be just and comprehensive in addressing the root causes of conflict.

  • The role of the LTTE must be recognized as integral in any peace process.

  • The necessity of a peoples' movement for democratic reform was considered as an essential component of the peace process.

  • Third party assistance in the peace process was recognized as necessary and unavoidable in ensuring constructive dialogue between the protagonists and the role of the UN and international organizations in monitoring human rights violations and encouraging the peace process was also recognized the peace.

  • We feel that in defining humanitarian space there is need to go beyond the stereotype of what constitutes humanitarian assistance - humanitarian assistance should not only refer to such items as food clothing and shelter but also the right to access to these means of existence. These have to be seen in the context of the human rights of the affected persons.

  • We deplore the weaponisation of the basic means of survival e.g. food, medicine and shelter and stress the fundamental link between humanitarian issues and human rights. The justification of the intensity of the conflict cannot be used to deprive people of their basic rights and to injure the human dignity of all persons. The state cannot abdicate its obligation to protect and provide for the welfare of all its citizens. Obligations of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE as a non-state actor under international law with regard to this need to be strongly emphasized.

  • The delivery of relief and humanitarian assistance should be handled by civilian authorities and agencies supervised by international humanitarian institutions; there has to be a humanitarian corridor for such supplies supervised by these international institutions.

  • The way Tamils are treated by the pass system, the arbitrary detention of youth, denial of legal redress in their own language, gravely impede the process of reconciliation. Redress in these areas can and should be the starting point for confidence building.

  • The humanitarian plight of the Muslim and Sinhala minorities in the combat zones needs attention and they should not become a pawn in ethnic politics.

  • In the context of escalating conflict, a humanitarian corridor should be created under the supervision of the ICRC or any other neutral organization to assist the civilian population to move to safe areas.

  • The role of Indian civil society, in particular, in raising and providing humanitarian assistance and urging the government of Indian to provide shelter to the fleeing population of Sri Lanka is of special importance and will go along way in evolving norms of South Asian solidarity with the victims.

We feel that in understanding media coverage of the conflict, constraints such as the ethnic divide, the state and non-state media divide, censorship and self-censorship, as well as the lack of professionalism in the media must be considered. As means of overcoming these constraints the following recommendations were made. The use of alternative channels of communication and the crucial need for civil society peace organizations to develop specific media strategies was emphasized.

  • Demystification of IT and capacity building of NGO in employing IT in their lobbying and dissemination programmes.

  • The creative use of multi media and the dissemination of programmes promoting peace on radio and TV both private and state owned, was stressed.

  • Training programmes for sensitizing journalists to issues of social justice and "what is news" in conflict situations. Better professional training could be a first step in countering the problem of self-censorship.

  • The need for a Right to Information law was emphasized. The use of draconian, emergency and censorship laws to restrict freedom of expression and the right to information was condemned and their immediate removal was called for. Free access of journalists to the military zone was also called for.

We feel that women throughout Sri Lanka should be singled out as being adversely affected by war both directly and indirectly. Women constitute 50 % of the population, which has been displaced, and the war experience has affected both their self-perception and the dynamics of gender relationships within communities. In some cases conflict is forcing the revival of hitherto discarded social practices which undermine women's autonomy e.g. veiling of Muslim women. The phenomenon of women headed households has imposed an additional burden on women but it has also opened up ambivalent spaces of empowerment.

  • Conflict has forced women to think and act in terms of their ethnicity and this polarization has made it difficult for civil society women activists to work together let alone bringing together the women of the various communities.

  • Whilst there has to be a search for common ground on the basis of shared experiences and values, there needs to be a plurality of approach in organizing women from the three communities taking into account the different ground situation in which they are placed and the specific needs of their respective communities.

  • Humanitarian relief and economic empowerment, by themselves will not alleviate the situation of women in conflict: the centrality of political empowerment was emphasized.

  • Once more the primacy of democratizing the peace process was emphasized as an indispensable condition for the participation of women. It will provide women their due space in society and strengthen their role in the peace building process.

The agony that all the peoples of Sri Lanka are currently enduring demands a comprehensive and vibrant discourse on democratization on the one hand and devolution and power sharing on the other. This situation creates an enormous obligation on civil society and its organizations. It also casts a duty on the civil society in South Asia to support the Sri Lankans at this crucial hour.

 

Thailand

WOMEN WORKERS PROTEST IN FRONT OF GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Bangkok 2 September 2000

More than 500 women workers are holding a permanent protest in front of the Government House of Thailand.

The workers are members of the Thai Kriang Durable Textile Trade Union, which is affiliated to the Textile Garment and Leather Workers Federation of Thailand and to the Labor Congress of Thailand.

The Thai Durable company employs 1500 mostly women workers. The workers have been helping the company during the years of economic crisis by agreeing to no pay increasess and accepting the loss of their holiday pay.

Now the company is again making profits and has invested in millions of dollars of new machinery. When the contract expired in February 2000 the workers asked for a pay increase of US$0.03 cents per day and a two month bonus for all workers.

The company refused to discuss these demands and the workers went on strike in May and occupied the factory.

On 14 June the company sent plainclothes security guards to attack the workers assembled in the factory. The security guards were supported by riot police. The security guards and police eventually cleared the factory and 390 workers were sacked.

The union complained that the attack on the workers was contrary to Thai labor laws and that the police should prosecute those who assaulted the workers.

On 27 July more than 2000 workers joined a demonstration in front of Government House to support the textile workers.

On 1 August the Thai Kriang Durable Textile Trade Union set up a protest in front of Government House, to request government support for their claims.

The workers' protest has been joined by a permanent protest of 3000 peasants, organised by the Assembly of the Poor, who are demanding compensation because their lands have been submerged by a new dam. They have a log of claims that includes no more dams on their land and compensation.

The two protests have developed into three very organised and very disciplined tent cities. But there are rows of riot police standing just two meters from the protesterss.

This protest has united 23 Thai local unions and labor centres in a major effort of solidarity and support. Unions have provided tents against the monsoon rain, and donations of money and food. Cultural groups have held performances and labor activists visit the protest.

The Thai Kriang Durable Textile Trade Union has received messages of solidarity from two textile trade unions outside Thailand, and they have asked other unions in the Asia Pacific Region to send their message of solidarity to the workers assembled outside the Thai Government House.

Please send your message of solidarity to:

Thai Kriang Durable Textile Trade Union
Email: FOW@mozart.inet.co.th

 

THAILAND

PAK MOON DAM Update

Cabinet yields to demand Assembly of the Poor ends hunger strike

Bangkok Post

9 August: The government yesterday bowed to pressure from the Assembly of the Poor and accepted seven out of the eight recommendations made by a neutral committee charged with solving their problems.

Government spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart said the cabinet agreed with seven proposals made by Banthorn On-dam's panel.

The government agreed to:

  • Allow locals and NGOs to sit on environmental impact panels.
  • Compensate villagers based on actual damage.
  • Revamp the National Environmental Committee and allow it to participate in environmental impact assessments.
  • Amend the 1992 Environmental Conservation Bill.
  • Allow a multilateral committee comprising state agencies, local administrations and NGOs to manage water resources with the National Water Resource Committee.
  • Allow the panel to participate in planning and decision-making.
  • Amend forest management laws in line with the constitution.

Mr Akapol said the government disagreed with the recommendation to revoke the cabinet's June 30, 1998 resolution on land claims verification.

The resolution effectively cancelled two earlier resolutions issued by the Chavalit administration allowing villagers to live in the forests while their claims were verified by witnesses. The Chuan cabinet resolution required verification by aerial photos.

Mr Akapol defended the government's resolution, saying the use of aerial photos would solve the problem of forest encroachment. Copies of that resolution would be distributed to protesters today, he said.

Assembly of the Poor adviser Wanida Tantiwittayapitak said she had yet to look into today's proceedings in detail but it appeared the government was only acting under pressure.

"Last week we got a spoon and this week we got a plate. For everything we get, we are forced to work extremely hard to pressure the government for it. I suppose next week we'll get rice."Protesters yesterday ended their 12-day hunger strike but the assembly was looking ahead to the possibility of settling down outside Government House for the long haul.

The end of the hunger strike by some 700 protesters was marked by a ceremony by Phra Paisarn Visalo, a strong proponent of non-violence principles.

The villagers will rest for four days to allow hunger strikers to recuperate. "After the rest, we will decide on our next move," said Pakdi Chanthajiad, one of the group's leaders.

Rajani Dhongchai, principal of the Children's Village School in Kanchanaburi, will today begin teaching 23 village children in a makeshift hut outside Government House.

The school, made from bamboo and leaves, is similar to one erected at Mae Moon Man Yuen I, a temporary village on the banks of the Moon river.

It will have white boards and chairs, but there are no funds yet to provide lunch, books or toys.

"The unfair development policy has hurt these children. In a way, it is destroying our nation since the children are our future. I can't let them sit idly by and do nothing," she said.

 

AOTEAROA

NGO STATEMENT ON NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE

Rotorua, New Zealand, August 2000

The NGOs gathered here welcome the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The massive problems involved in discrimination in the Asia Pacific region that needs to find expression during this World Conference. It can build world consensus to eliminated all forms of racial discrimination and contribute to mutual understanding and goodwill among the peoples.

In reviewing the preparations for this Conference there are several matters of concern that the NGOs wish to bring to the notice of this conference. As you know, the first preparatory committee meeting of the conference was held in May 2000. Prior to that a consultative meeting was held, at Bellagio, Italy. (This was also attended by several NGO leaders from various parts of the world.) From this meeting a statement was issued under the title "The Bellagio Statement". This statement made a comprehensive set of recommendations for the world conference. Unfortunately, the PrepCom meeting ignored most of these recommendations and its own statement is one of a very general nature. If the World Conference on racism is to produce guidelines for the resolution of conflict related to the themes of the conference then the conference must look in more details at the actual problems confronted by millions of people throughout the world.

The preparatory work for the conference takes place by way of experts meetings and regional meetings. The European experts meeting has already been held and a set of recommendations have been developed. However, we note that although the next experts meeting is to be held in Bangkok by the end of this month, very few preparations have taken place. What is more disturbing is that the conference theme has been limited to migration and the trafficking of women. While we support strongly the inclusion of these two themes we are worried about the exclusion of many other vital issues related to racism in the Asia Pacific region - a region in which more than half of the world's population lives.

SPECIFIC ISSUES

We specifically wish to draw attention to the following issues:

  1. Identify specific forms of racism. This Forum should identify specific forms of racism in the Asia Pacific region and find ways to advise the governments of the region about these issues;
  2. The caste system in South Asia, with specific reference to the Dalits of India (the former "untouchables"). Two hundred million people of India belong to a category called the Dalits who have been deprived of all basic human rights for thousands of years. The Indian Constitution made some attempt to deal with this issue. However, given the enormity of the problem, such redress has not gone to eradicate this most inhuman form of discrimination. While apartheid can be considered a partial for of exclusion, the discrimination of the Dalits constitute complete exclusion. It is time that Asia attends to its obligation to these people;
  3. Indigenous people's rights;
  4. Minority people's rights;
  5. Migration within and outside of Asia;
  6. The representation and full involvement of NHRIs at both PrepCom meetings (of the World Conference Against Racism) and regional meetings and seminars;
  7. The full participation of NGOs in all PrepCom meetings (of the World Conference Against Racism) should be ensured;
  8. Adequate representation of minority and indigenous people;
  9. We would like Commissions to review the adequacy or otherwise of various forms of redress used in the past -e.g. affirmative action -- and make recommendations for further improvements;
  10. A much wider consultative process within Asia should take place so as to identify a specific role for the Forum Secreatariate -- the attention given to this conference so far has been insufficient and must be addressed;
  11. The education section of the background paper needs to include anti-racism programmes specifically for school so that children receive this education from a young age, when their values and beliefs are most vulnerable to impression.

*[This statement regarding the World Conference Against Racism to be held in South Africa in August 2001 was drafted by 24 NGOs from Asia Pacific region that participated in the Asia-Pacific Forum of Human Rights Institutions.]

 

3. RESOURCES Received - top
 

DAGA receives a lot of juournals, periodicals, newsletters and many other forms of printed resources from its network of Action Groups in Asia and around the world.  Please click on "Resources" in the left bar for an extended listing.

 

4. Urgent APPEAL - top
 

BOYCOTT McDONALD'S !!

Children toil in sweatshops packing McDonald's toys.

Toys sold with McDonald's meals are being made with the help of child labourers who work 16 hours a day and earn 1.5 yuan (US$0.20) an hour in sweatshop conditions. City Toys Ltd in Shajing, Shenzhen, employs children as young as 14 who work from 7am until as late as midnight for 24 yuan (about US$3) a day, packing toys for McDonald’s. The company - a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Pleasure Tech Holdings Ltd - is contracted to produce the toys by McDonald’s supplier Simon Marketing (Hong Kong) Ltd. City Toys director, Hong Kong businessman Jack Lau Kim-hung, told the Sunay Morning Post that he "knew nothing about the underage workers".

Young workers at the factory say they produce Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty and other toys sold with McDonald’s meals in Hong Kong and in branches of the fast-food chain around the world. A Post investigation has found that underage workers use fake ID cards to get jobs at the factory and are estimated to make up about 20 per cent of the workforce. Asia Monitor Resource Centre, a labour monitoring body, said it was common for people to use fake ID cards to get work. The firms knew that children used forged IDs and they accept it.

McDonald’s issued a statement saying it had a strict code of practice governing labour rights - including a clause outlawing child labour - and carried out periodic audits. It had no reason to believe its supplier was in breach of the code of conduct. Simon Marketing spokeswoman Vivian Foo also denied the plant employed child labour and said regular announced and unannounced audits were carried out.

The Christian Industrial Committee, a labour union that visited the factory on a number of occasions over the past two months, said the firm was exploiting workers. The group estimates that of the 2,000 workers in the factory, more than 400 are underage.

"All people aged under 16 are forbidden to work in China," said researcher Parry Leung Pak-nang. Hiring underage workers carries a fine of 3,000 to 5,000 yuan. Different places in the mainland have various wage requirements, which are calculated according to the area’s conditions. At Shajing town, the minimum wage is 419 yuan a month in 2000. This is based on the assumption that a worker does eight hours a day, five days a week. "The firm therefore is breaching the mainland's labour ordinance on minimum wage and minimum age."Mr Leung said

The investigative report by Sunday Morning Post prompted McDonald's supplier to launch its own audit of the factory. While it maintained that independent checks found no evidence of child workers, production was stopped because of other problems. Simon Marketing, the fast food chain's supplier, eventually announced that it had cut ties with City Toys which operates the factory in Shajing.

The assistant director of the Christian Industrial Committee, Eli Chan Ka-wai, said the group was furious at McDonald’s insistence that its probe found no evidence of child labour at the factory and four affiliated factories nearby. "This is not a sincere act to be taken by a giant corpo-ration that has integrity." he said. "There is concrete, solid evidence that we and the media have collected on child labour exploitation. We have the names of the children, their addresses, how they were employed. They seem happy with 'announced visits' to the plant and do not demonstrate any sincerity and responsibility for the fact that underage workers were sacked and evidence removed to escape investigation," Mr Chan said.

A series of Anit-McDonald's actions are being organised in Hong Kong by four NGOs - Greenpeace, Hong Kong Conferation of Trade Unions, Asia Monitor Resource Center and the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee - to protest against Macdonald's from different aspects: environmental (anti-GM foods), violations of labor rights in HK and mainland China. Their immediate demands on McDonald’s are:

  1. Stop selling any GM foods.
  2. Promise not to destroy our environment in the process of production and sales.
  3. Fair wages and fair working environment for the local workers so that they can work with dignity.
  4. Make sure that McDonald’s subcontractors follow Chinese Labor Law and workers receive fair pay.
  5. Make sure that workers who work for or produce toys for McDonald’s have the rights to strike and freedom of association and these rights are respected.

 

5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

DAGA DOSSIER ON CHINA AND THE WTO

DAGA Dossier on China and the WTO is now available for download in PDF format.  Click on "Dossier" on the left bar. This is a compilation of articles to provide our readers with different perspectives and opinions on the issue of China's membership in the WTO. Some of the topics covered include:
* The Future of Chinese Labour
* The Future of Chinese Farmers
* Opinions from People in the Mainland
* Debates on the Membership
* Comments, etc.

Click on :Dossier" on the left bar to download the PDF version of the dossier now.

 


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