Detained LGWR Alumnus Released by Chinese Authorities After International Mobilization

Chen Weixiang, a 2018 graduate of the Master of Professional Studies program in Labor and Global Workers' Rights at Penn State, was arrested on December 17, 2019 in Guangzhou, China. Chen is a labor activist who has advocated for sanitation workers’ rights since college. He has created online support groups for sanitation workers and has run the website “Xin-Huanwei” (Hearts for Sanitation Workers).
Detained LGWR Alumnus Released by Chinese Authorities After International Mobilization

LGWR alumnus and labor rights activist, Chen Weixiang

Chen Weixiang, a 2018 graduate of the Master of Professional Studies program in Labor and Global Workers' Rights at Penn State, was arrested on December 17, 2019 in Guangzhou, China. Chen is a labor activist who has advocated for sanitation workers’ rights since college. He has created online support groups for sanitation workers and has run the website “Xin-Huanwei” (Hearts for Sanitation Workers). His effort has contributed significantly to improving the well-being of sanitation workers. For instance, he helped them retrieve overdue wages amounting to more than 10 million RMB (US $1.43 million). Chen’s work, by the standard of any democratic societies, is mild and is a normal part of labor relations in other countries. However, in authoritarian China it is seen as posing challenges to the political regime.

Chen’s arrest attracted significant international media attention. Over ten thousand people signed an online petition to urge the Chinese government to release him. In total, he was detained for 15 days for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a charge often used by the Chinese government to suppress activists. Chen’s arrest is by no means an isolated incident. In the past few years, the Xi Jinping administration has tightened the space of civil society and has become increasingly harsh towards rights lawyers, feminist activists, ethnic minorities, and labor activists. In 2019 alone, over 100 labor rights advocates were arrested. Upon his release, in social media Chen encouraged his supporters and the international community to continue paying attention to and supporting other arrested labor and social activists.