Saturday, 7 August 2010

The real cost ... continued

Another day, another mining disaster in the PRC:
Sixteen workers died when a fire broke out in a gold mine in east China, state media reported Saturday, in the latest accident to hit the nation's notoriously dangerous mining sector.
Most of the victims died of toxic smoke inhalation underground or in hospital after the accident, which happened on Friday in Shandong province's Zhaoyuan city, the official Xinhua news agency said.
More than 300 miners had been working underground when the blaze started and most were lifted to ground level safely, leaving around 50 trapped underground, a spokesman for the rescue headquarters was quoted as saying.
Rescuers then managed to pull some workers out and dozens of injured miners were sent to nearby hospitals.
The work safety bureaus in Zhaoyuan and Shandong refused to comment on the accident when contacted by AFP. (1)
Another sixteen people dead. Fifty or so trapped in a burning mine. How many families bereaved?

These stories seem to be taking over lefthandpalm. It's hard to blog about other stuff after announcing another round of industrial mass homicide.

I started logging these events out of curiosity, to see how frequently they occurred and how they were covered in the mainstream media. The answer is, it seems, not very well at all. Sure, they get the reported by the wire agencies, but the Guardian's China section doesn't mention any of the recent tragedies. Ditto, The Independent. The BBC mentions the most recent Foxconn death, in its Asia-Pacific repository (2).

Obviously, there are other stories. Pakistan is innundated. The Hiroshima commememoration in Japan deserve mention, because we shouldn't fucking forget. There's a war grinding on in Afghanistan. But the recent Chinese interest in owning liverpool FC gains more attention than the bleak, steadily increasing body count in the Chinese industrial killing fields.

It's almost like it was something we'd prefer to ignore, isn't it? It's easier to entertain vague hostility to the Chinese ruling class - the bastards want to rule the world and own our football teams, after all - but much more difficult to make an honest appraisal of our own relationship with the Chinese proletariat - which would put us far closer to the oppressors than to the oppressed.

But, anyway, they want to buy Liverpool! Whatever next?
1 - "China gold mine fire kills 16 workers," by Marianne Barriaux. Published by AFP, 7th of August, 2010. Hosted by Google News. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hgxKVcC4nzFz4DT7kfZbmToDXFLQ)
2 - Obviously, the stories featured change, but as of the 7th of July, 2010, none of the various mining calamities warranted a mention on either site. The most recent Foxconn death was recorded by the BBC. China stories are filed at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/china, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world/asia_pacific/
UPDATE - Just spotted an interesting and relevant column by Johann Hari in the Independent. It's well worth reading, particularly for those who pretend they haven't any power or influence:
Last year, the Chinese dictatorship was so panicked by the widespread uprisings that it prepared an extraordinary step forward. It drafted a new labour law that would allow workers to form and elect their own trade unions. It would plant seeds of democracy across China's workplaces. Western corporations lobbied very hard against it, saying it would create a "negative investment environment" – by which they mean smaller profits. Western governments obediently backed the corporations and opposed freedom and democracy for Chinese workers. So the law was whittled down and democracy stripped out.

It wasn't enough. This year Chinese workers have risen even harder to demand a fair share of the prosperity they create. Now company after company is making massive concessions: pay rises of over 60 per cent are being conceded. Even more crucially, officials in Guandong province, the manufacturing heartland of the country, have announced that they are seriously considering allowing workers to elect their own representatives to carry out collective bargaining after all.

Just like last time, Western corporations and governments are lobbying frantically against this – and to keep the millions of Yan Lis stuck at their assembly lines into the 35th hour. (3)
This might seem to contradict my earlier complaint about laclk of coverage - but a solitary article by the studiously maverick Hari actually highlights how little the mainsteam media report this topic which - where ever you stand on the issue of Morlock labour - affects us all.

The Bastards of Beijing are terrified of revolt. The foreign companies exploiting Chinese labour are terrified to losing profit - to the extent that soem are already shifting out of China because its pathetically cheap labour isn't cheap enough. So if consumers start to react at the other end, they'll feel it.
3 - "And now for some good news," by Johann Hari. Published in the Independent, 6th of August 2010. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-and-now-for-some-good-news-2044578.html)

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