Chinese migrant worker making appeal on Internet becomes big hit

November 05, 2012

By KEISUKE KATORI/ Staff Writer

BEIJING--A protest video that includes a parody of a woman imitating a bureaucrat and calling for the payment of overdue wages to migrant workers has attracted more than 1 million views in China and sympathy among the country's media.

In the four-minute plus video, filmed against a handwritten backdrop, a middle-aged woman, describing herself as “Miao Cuihua, spokesperson for the ‘nongmingong’ (former farmer migrant workers) salary dispute,” calls for payment of outstanding wages for graveyard construction workers in Tianjin.

The “spokesperson” speaks in a bureaucratic manner, but awkwardly, in poorly accented Chinese.

“We will negotiate rigorously on a number of occasions, in order to protect farmers’ legitimate interests,” she says in the video.

The woman reportedly had to be told how to pronounce Chinese characters, because she has only two years of elementary school education. The video has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

The media are largely sympathetic toward the unusual Internet protest over unpaid wages to the nongmingong. They noted the more serious issue behind the video, even if the image of a bureaucratic spokesperson in casual clothing speaking poor Chinese might appear unintentionally humorous.

“There are tragedies behind the comedy,” a media outlet said.

The producer of the video is a freelance photographer. He told The Beijing News newspaper that he was inspired by a video of a government news conference over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

“I did everything, resorting to legal process and petitions, but those ended in vain,” the producer said. “It is sad that petitions are less effective than the Internet.”

There were an estimated 250 million nongmingong in the country as of 2011, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. They have been helping bolster the country’s economic development.

But many do not have a contract with their employers, and poor working conditions and unpaid wages have become social problems.

A media report said unpaid wages to nongmingong total about 100 billion yuan (1.25 trillion yen, or $16 billion) across the country.

Some workers take radical measures in demanding payment, occupying the top of a crane at a construction site and crowding around an employer's car, for example. Arrests and deaths have been reported in some of the protests.

By KEISUKE KATORI/ Staff Writer
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In this image taken from the Internet, a woman calls for the payment of overdue wages to migrant workers, parodying a news conference by authorities.

In this image taken from the Internet, a woman calls for the payment of overdue wages to migrant workers, parodying a news conference by authorities.

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  • In this image taken from the Internet, a woman calls for the payment of overdue wages to migrant workers, parodying a news conference by authorities.

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