Forced confessions and more disappearances as CCP regime persecutes worker and youth activists

Dikang, chinaworker.info

“Our activities were actually illegal crimes. They seriously disturb the social order, and ignited foreign criticism towards the Party and the government, which dramatically debeautified the government’s image…”

This is part of the filmed “confession” of detained 25-year-old left activist Shen Mengyu. Shen, a prominent figure in the Jasic Support Group, has been in police detention at an unknown location for more than six months. She has no access to a lawyer or her family. 

She is one of dozens of left-wing youth activists swept up in China’s latest crackdown. The aim of this crackdown is to deter workers from striking and pursuing militant demands, particularly the demand for independent democratically-controlled trade unions, which are completely illegal under the dictatorship of the so-called Communist Party (CCP). 

China: Release labour and feminist activist Yue Xin

This was the central demand of workers at the Jasic Technology factory in Shenzhen who’s struggle was brutally repressed last year. This struggle saw the formation of the Jasic Support Group drawing together left-wing activists especially students loosely described as ‘Maoists’. The escalating repression seeks to deter others from following their example by linking up with factory workers at a time of explosive class tensions.

Forced confessions

In a new twist last month, police circulated video “confessions” from four of the detained Jasic youth activists including Shen. The use of self-incriminating video confessions is a common tactic of the Chinese dictatorship – with nearly 50 cases since 2013 involving human rights lawyers, writers and worker activists. 

These confessions have no credibility. Only brainwashed regime loyalists would accept them as genuine. The films are scripted and there is even a “director” according to several former victims. Take the following example, the “confession” of Yue Xin, another Jasic prisoner and well known feminist activist: 

“Because now I have understood that my activities during the Jasic Incident violated the law, I will accept the punishment by the law. I also found out the radical organisation and ideology behind the Jasic Incident and its harm to young students. So I voluntarily decide to break with the organisation and ideology. And if possible, I hope to openly unveil and criticise the ideology as a whole and the organisation’s activities, which may warn the mass in our society (especially the young students)… I also will try to clarify the ideals of the Party, and study the theory of the Party strictly… So now I understand it is the CCP that is the only one concerned about the rights of workers and peasants in the New Age… Thus I’ve broken up some mechanical impressions towards the Party. I firmly understand that I should stand firstly with the Party, not only with the motherland and the people.”

Video terror

What is interesting in the Jasic case is that the videos were not, as is usually the case, shown publicly. Instead they were used at private showings to which students connected to ‘Marxist’ and ‘Maoist’ study groups at many of China’s universities were herded. The aim, obviously, was to intimidate and deter left-wing students from joining or supporting the Jasic Support Group whose members are still struggling courageously to spread the word and protest this vicious state repression.

That the videos were not broadcast via government media shows the regime’s fear that the Jasic struggle and its underlying message could generate enormous public sympathy.

The Jasic struggle and the Left in China

Rather than convincing young activists that their imprisoned comrades have betrayed the struggle, the videos only confirm the inhuman treatment involving months held in isolation, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other forms of torture, and then the fear of long prison sentences, all of which are commonly used methods to extract “confessions”. Rather than Shen, Yue, and their comrades speaking, the words we hear in these videos are those of the black-hearted police bullies holding them captive.

“Unimaginable” dangers

Xi Jinping’s regime faces increasing pressures in 2019, with a deepening economic malaise and an escalating conflict with US imperialism (notwithstanding a possible temporary deal to suspend the trade war).  But increasing repression does not equal stability. This year began with a series of top level meetings at which Xi repeated the basic theme that the regime faces “unimaginable” dangers. Key anniversaries approach – of the 1919 May Fourth Movement, the 1989 Democracy Movement, and the 1949 Revolution, which for a period ended capitalism in China.

More than anything else Xi’s regime fears an organised movement of the working class. This explains the severity and duration of the attack on the Jasic struggle.

Five well known labour activists in and around Shenzhen were arrested in January, including Wu Guijun who led furniture workers’ strike in 2013 and spent one year in prison without being charged. chinaworker.info and our international comrades in the CWI were active in the international solidarity campaign on Wu’s behalf, as we are today in organising solidarity for the Jasic workers and youth. The Shenzhen arrests are clearly if indirectly connected to the Jasic struggle.

China: New wave of repression against left student activists

At the same time, more student activists are being arrested and abducted as the dictatorship steps up its crackdown on campus political activism. Seven students, members of ‘Marxist’ associations at Peking University and Renmin University were seized on 21 January. One of the students, Zhang Ziwei, left a cellphone under his bed with a video recording:

“Six of my classmates have been detained already today… They were shoved into a car, shouting ‘call the police!’… Dark forces are conducting house-to-house searches right now… They want to take me away too, just like they did to the others.”

chinaworker.info demands the immediate release of all the worker and youth activists swept up in the crackdown on the Jasic Support Group. We salute the courage of these workers, students and former students, their refusal to be silent in the face of state repression and their clear calls for international solidarity, which mark an important step forward compared to many previous struggles in China.

As a Marxist website, chinaworker.info also agrees that the workers’ struggle in China is political and needs a socialist alternative. Where we differ ideologically with some sections of the youth involved in this struggle is whether such change can be realised without clearly challenging the CCP regime and its ruthless pursuit of capitalist policies despite its sporadic use of “Maoist” or “Marxist” phrases. Workers need to build a political alternative to the pro-billionaire CCP and this begins here and now with the struggle for independent and democratic trade unions.