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DAGAinfo

21 November 2000
No. 114


In this issue:
  1. FEATURE
    Globalisaton and Women
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Brunei: APEC News
    Hong Kong: Justice to the Zhili Fire Victims
    Indonesia: Deteriorating Human Rights in Aceh
    China: China and Europe Reach WTO Deal
    Korea: Thaw Continues With Plans for Single Trade Currency
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    Sri Lanka: Massacre in Custody
  4. ANNOUNCEMENT
    Conference on Ideology, Faith and People Movement in the New Millennium

 

1. FEATURE - top
 

GLOBALISATION AND WOMEN

By Cecilia NG

 

Introduction

When I was asked to speak about about globalisation and women, a major question came to my mind: is globalisation weakening or strengthening patriarchy? In other words, are women, as a result of globalisation, gaining more rights or because they are now more visible in their claim for gender and social equality, the forces of conservatism (in the name of tradition, religion and even love) have reacted, making their struggle an uphill one?

However, before I begin I would like to preface my sharing with the following three points. Firstly, I do not believe that the globalising process is integrating us into homogeneous entities in the spheres of economy, culture, technology and governance, as some would like us to believe – some call this process an euphemism for ultra imperialism. Indeed this very globalising process has led to fragmentation and the emergence of divergent views and identity politics - certainly globalisation is not universal. At the recent global knowledge conference held in Kuala Lumpur, two of the main themes of the conference were the indigenisation of knowledge and sovereignty – a counter discourse to that of globalisation. The forces of economic globalisation might have to contend with other forms of social and cultural resistance, thus making its spread a much more complex process. As Diana Wong (1999) puts it aptly, ‘the challenge of globality today may not lie in the attainment of convergence, but in the recognition and acceptance of difference’.

Secondly, it is important for us to note that women are not a homogeneous category and while united as a gender, they are also divided by class, ethnicity, religion, age, ideology and sexual preferences. We should keep these differences in mind when we talk about ‘globalisation and women’ as indeed, one women’s gain might be another women’s loss – as in the case of the female migrant domestic helper. The third point I would like us to bear in mind is that the discourse on the ‘woman question’ involves both men and women; that is the social and power relations between men and women – gender relations – in all aspects of life, from the family to the economic and political spheres.

But to come back to the original question – has globalisation chiselled away sexist structures, processes and attitudes? What have been or will be the opportunities for women’s empowerment and what are the threats to her continued oppression? I would like to argue that there have certainly been gains in terms of recognising women’s rights as human rights – these gains have been made both as a result of and in spite of globalisation – through centuries of struggle. Within the last three decades, these struggles have gained momentum due to the international women’s movement and through the various World Conferences on Women, starting from 1975 to the coming Beijing + 5 meeting in New York. Indeed these global meetings have attempted to put forth a global governance on women’s position and rights and in this way have served to pressure national governments to adapt their stances. As a result, women’s groups at the national level, including those in Malaysia, have used these global forums to also pressure from below. As Eric Hobsbawm has pointed out, ‘women’s assertion of active agency is a significant expression of democratic upsurge in developing countries and shall remain one of the largest contributions for the 20th century’ (cited in Agnihotri, 1999:7)

The 1995 Beijing Platform of Action acknowledged the following gains of the women’s movement:

  • Women’s rights are recognised as human rights.
  • Violence against women are legitimate issues which violate women’s dignity.
  • Women’s housework is recognised as having value and worthy of separate accounting.

Despite these gains, it is also clear that as we move into the 21st century – the century of the so-called borderless world, the development model which is being promoted globally is producing increasing inequality and environmental degradation (See various UNDP Human Development Reports 1996 - 1999). The richest 20 per cent of the world command 85 per cent of the world’s income, while the poorest 40 per cent own only 1.4 per cent of that same income. When measuring the gender-related development index (GDI), the 1997 Report discloses quite unabashedly that ‘no society treats its women as well as its men’.

What are some of the global statistics for women? Out of the 1.3 billion poor people in the world, 70 per cent are women, the majority of whom are illiterate with no access to basic amenities like safe drinking water. Two-thirds of the 130 million children worldwide who are not in school are girls. Between 75 and 80 per cent of the world’s 27 million refugees are women and children. Women hold 10.5 per cent of the seats in the world’s parliament. The majority of women earn an average about three-fourths of the pay of males for the same work. In most countries, women work about twice the unpaid time men do. One in every four households in the world is now headed by a woman. Worldwide 20 to 50 per cent of women experience some degree of domestic violence during marriage. The primary victims of today’s armed conflicts are civilian women and children, not soldiers, with rape becoming more evident as a weapon of war (United Nations Department of Public Information, 1997).

Let me elaborate on several of these issues in relation to opportunities and threats for women in this era of globalisation. Due to the limited time availabe, I would like to highlight five main concerns: feminisation of employment, migration and the family, violence against women, commoditisation of women and privatisation.

Issue 1: Feminisation of Employment

In order to respond to increasing and intense global competititon, corporations are creating various strategies to meet the challenges of their own survival. One of the major strategies deals with labour, and takes three main forms – labour flexibility, the casualisation of labour and the feminisation of labour. Concretely, dual labour processes are occurring – one which leads to a fragmentation of the labour process resulting in low-skilled and repetitive work, whereby there is a shift and/or combination of regular work with various forms of non-regular, flexible employment e.g. part-time, temporary, sub-contracted and home-based workers. The other process is the upgrading of workers’ skills in multi-task jobs using information communication technology (ICTs) resulting in an increasing demand for multi-skilled workers with hardware/software as well as business skills. The majority of the workers in the first category are women while those in the second are men, although more and more women are now being employed in ICT-led sectors.

The export boom in Southeast and East Asia in the last quarter of the 20th century was fuelled by the contribution of women in the export-related activities and through the remittances made by migrant women workers. In Malaysia, we know that electrical and electronic products comprise about 60 per cent of the total manufactured exports, with the industry generating about one-third of manufacturing employment in the country. Many of us forget that the majority of those employed, particularly at the operator level are Malay women. As noted above, this trend towards the feminisation of paid employment in Asian countries was driven by the need of employers, usually MNCs, for cheaper and more flexible sources of labour. Global capitalism makes use of existing patriarchal ideology whereby women are perceived to be more subservient to (male) managerial authority, less prone to organise or being organised into unions, more willing to accept poorer working conditions and easier to dismiss using life-cycle criteria as marriage and child-birth (Ghosh, 1999).

However such a process is also double-edged. On the one hand the globalisation of trade and the economy has definitely opened up economic and income opportunities for women resulting in her improved status in the household and an increase in her position in society as well as her self-esteem. It has opened up choices for women in both the manufacturing and services sectors and for those in the higher-valued industries, it has also meant an increase in her skills. My research with Maznah Mohamed and TAN Beng Hui (forthcoming) on women electronics workers in two MNCs found that they are confident, have a great sense of pride in their company and a positive perception of themselves as part of the company they work in. With the expansion of ICTs, information processing work can now be globally distributed leading to new modes of working, such as telework, teletrade and e-commerce. Women as off-shore data entry workers, software programmers and systems analysts are finding novel employment opportunities in this digital age. In my own study of software companies in Malaysia, 30 per cent of the software personnel were women.

However, on the other hand, we know that the majority of the women workers work under inferior working conditions and often on shifts with serious implications on their social and physical health. Those in the lower end labour-intensive consumer electronics industries suffer from health problems ranging from extreme fatigue and general health problems due to chemical hazards and job stress.

The current crisis has more serious implications for women than for men, not least because more women than men are hired in those export-led industries being affected, and more women than men are in the unskilled and low-skilled jobs, but also because women are also strongly affected by the loss of their incomes within the household. The retrenchment data for the Malaysian electronics sector (this data is for companies which reported retrenchment from January 1998 till May 1999) revealed that 26 per cent of their employees were retrenched during the 17 month period. The majority were local workers with women comprising 65 per cent of those retrenched. Most of the retrenchment came from the foreign-owned companies with their workers forming 75 per cent of the total retrenched. According to Ghosh (1999) there is a real possibility that the long march towards equality for women in the region, particularly for poor women, may be halted or even reversed by the current economic turmoil.

This is because poor women all over Asia, and in Malaysia, are at the bottom of a vertical sub-contracting process which squeezes profits at each level. These women, located in the urban slums, in small towns, estates, rural villages and migrant workers will be the most exploited as they are often low-skilled, possess less formal education, are unorganised and hence more vulnerable. They will not enjoy the opportunities offered to their ‘sisters’ who have command of information technology. In such a situation those who fall by the wayside are the older production workers, both men and women. Generational gaps will occur within and across genders in terms of the new and dynamic forms of knowledge-based employment.

Issue 2: Migration, Breakdown of the Extended Family and Kinship Network

Like globalisation, migration is not a new phenomenon. Terms like berjelai and merantau point that the notion of ‘movement’ is part of our local vocabulary. However at that time, rural households were held by kinship structures and reciprocal labour networks (berderau, gotong royong, bekerjasama) which ensured the cohesion of the community, including female-headed families. However, today as a result of the Green Revolution, these socio-economic networks have been replaced by cash and commodity relations, endangering these structures so crucial for social cohesion. In the rural areas, with the commercialisation of agriculture and the migration of husbands and daughters to the cities, poverty has now a female face. In indigenous communities, the taking away of their customary land to make way for the building of dams and commercial crops, has led to a denigration of the status of indigenous women, who once owned land and in which the planting of padi (padi pun or spirit) was related to their high status in the community.

At the global level, more than 120 million migrants have left their home countries in search of greener pastures abroad, leading to the warning by the United Nations of the ‘human crisis of our age’. In Asia, migration for economic reasons has denuded poor families leaving children to fare for themselves with either father or mother away in a foreign land. The problems faced by female migrant workers are concerns we have yet to grapple with in any systematic manner.

Migration of males has been a major factor leading to an increasing proportion of female maintained households, the majority belonging to extreme poverty. Thirty to thirty-five per cent of all rural households in India are female-headed households, compared to 25 per cent in Cambodia, 15.7 per cent in Korea and 21.4 per cent in Mongolia (Rasheda Salem, 1995). Malaysia has 600,000 female headed households.

The breakdown of the extended family is more clearly seen in the urban sector. Today, more and more, the nuclear family is the norm, especially in the cities, where the burden is heavier for the working couple who has to deal with stress both at work and in the family. Stress at work is compounded by calls of efficiency, productivity and achievement of quotas, while at the familial level there are daily struggles to catch up with the increasing cost of living, particularly with various public services being privatised. With women finding employment and a new-found freedom, they are asking for traditional gender relations to change. Without proper communication and patriarchal ideology slow to change, tensions within the family increase leading to familial breakdown. Divorce rates are increasing especially in the cities, and society often blames women for marriage break-downs as they have become more aggressive, ‘demanding their own space’. Will there be a backlash for women who have struggled so long for their rights?

Issue 3: Better laws, increased awareness, increasing violence against women: a crisis in masculinity?

There is no doubt that there has been an increased awareness that violence against women is a crime – in fact this awareness coupled with reforms in the relevant laws have been one of the successes of the women’s movement at the global and national level. Yet why is it that violence against women in many countries is not decreasing, despite numerous campaigns by women’s groups? As noted earlier, worldwide 20-50 per cent of women suffer some domestic violence during marriage. Let us look at other statistics.

  • The total number of reported rape cases in Malaysia increased from 879 in 1993 to 1323 in 1997 – a 50% increase (AWAM, 2000). Rape of teen-age girls rose form 604 cases in 1995 to 719 in 1996. Police statistics disclose that in 1996, 67 per cent of rapes were victims below 16 years of age; 85 per cent of these rapes were committed by boyfriends, family members and neighbours (New Sunday Times, February 16, 1997)

  • The reported cases of female domestic violence increased from 466 in 1992 to 5,799 in 1997, a 1000 per cent increase. This number actually shot from 2,291 reported cases in 1996 to 5,799 in 1997 perhaps due to the increased awareness due to the implementation of the DVA.

  • Domestic abuse of women, both physical and mental is on the rise, with Bangladesh reporting an increasing trend in suicides among women

  • Increased cases of dowry related deaths and harassment of young brides are reported in India, Nepal and Bangladesh

  • Prostitution, forced prostitution, trafficking in women and children with associated violence and harassment have become a major concern in the region

  • Widespread sexual violence against women in situations of armed conflicts and civil unrest are reported in Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines

  • Women migrant workers are increasingly becoming victims of sexual violence

How do we explain the above phenomenon? In Malaysia, despite the wide publicity given to the sexual harassment code, our own male Parliamentarians made unwanted sexual innuendos at our female MPs. And it is well known that when both the amendments to the laws on rape and the DVA were proposed, there were loud guffaws from the male MPs.

Feminist accounts in the west have suggested that since the 1970s, gender violence increases when men feel they are losing ground as a sex (Jamieson, 2000). It is also not very clear to what extent the economic crisis has led to an increase of violence against women. Indeed today, 30 per cent or 2.5 billion of the workforce are unemployed or under-employed – many of these are men whose socio-cultural and symbolic role as the bread-winner in the family (in fact this is increasingly untrue but society still treats female labour as secondary) is increasingly being threatened. In Malaysia, 55 per cent of those retrenched during the recent crisis were men. The ability of men to ‘take care of the family’ is thus being chipped away leading, I believe, to a crisis in masculinity.

From another angle, very often, the transformation of unequal gender relations touches very intimate cultural and emotional knots in our personal lives – and these are the hardest to acknowledge and change. For men, who are themselves exploited as workers, it is giving up years of macho masculinity, and to learn to say sorry after beating up your wife for years. How do you treat your wife as an equal when you have always been the master of the house? For women, ‘sleeping with the enemy’ makes it all the more difficult to challenge such violent relationships. If globalisation is a project of modernity, leading to changing female roles, patriarchal attitudes are certainly still in the pre-modern, if not primordial stage. The notion of equal partnership as articulated through relations, processes and structures have yet to take root.

Issue 4: Commoditisation of women and sexuality

The market has also affected culture which is increasingly being commercialised and commoditised. The rise of individualism (to be different, to compete with others by having more) and consumerism actually comes hand in hand with globalisation and the need for MNCs to sell their products to accumulate more surplus for themselves. Firms and individuals follow suit in their pursuit of materialism and the creation of status symbols. In the same vein, sexuality and women’s bodies are being commoditised as never before - from pornography, sex-tourism and sex-trafficking to advertisements and beauty schemes which feed on our emotional insecurities and little vanities.

Economic globalisation in the form of ‘market democracy’ has also created the image of the New Asian Women. She is the professional women, entrepreneur, manageress, executive who is articulate, glamorous and assertive. This image is in every women’s magazine, avidly read by the middle class and aspiring working class women who don’t have the means to buy your designer clothes and skin-whitening products. This icon of the fashionable and glamorous energy-filled woman is sharply contrasted with the veiled Muslim woman.

Issue 5: Privatisation and the Rolling Back of the State

Last but not least a brief word on privatisation, a strong arm of globalisation, and its implications for women. Under the guise of free market restructuring, the privatisation of public services has led not only to its reduced availability, but often, to higher prices of such services as well as basic necessities. Because women are still expected to be responsible for child care and family maintenance, they will bear the disproportionate weight of these constraints. Women as home-makers have to balance out the extra costs due to increase of costs in public utilities, and education and health care as a result of cuts in public subsidies. Not only will their double burden be intensified, there will also be mounting pressure to assume multiple roles both as paid and unpaid labour e.g. taking care of the elderly, the retrenched, taking on extra work in the informal sector. Those adversely affected will be poor women who will have decreased or no access to such amenities, or will have to struggle more to gain access to these services for their family.

Conclusion

What conclusions can be made? I would like to mention four main observations.

There have been increased economic opportunities for women but also mounting threats. In the present global re-shaping of labour, studies have shown that as a company goes into labour casualisation, the higher is the number of women employed, and the greater is their vulnerability to exploitative conditions (ISIS, 1999). Labour flexibility has also led to job insecurities for men resulting in erosions to their masculinity. To what extent has this led to increased gender violence and strengthened patriarchy?

While the developmentalist and corporatist state, because of its links with capital, has been unable to qualitatively improve working conditions for women, global and local pressures have led it to make concessions to women, particularly in the passing of laws to improve/protect the position of women. In a sense these laws have not really threatened the economic and political base of the state and those in power, and are thus tolerated. But today, the issue of women, at least at the level of rhetoric, can no longer be discounted.

Nonetheless, these laws while helpful, have not genuinely transformed unequal gender relations nor have they led to more democratic processes and structures in society. Women do not want market democracy but genuine democracy. The call of the Women’s Agenda for Change (1999) for more accountability and democracy will not be accepted by the state.

It is thus important for the women’s movement to link up with other social movements, and for the wider democratic social and political movement to seriously incorporate women’s concerns. However, we must be able to present alternatives to the present trends of commoditisation, individualism and materialism, as well as the forces of conservatism, if indeed we want to engage with globalisation on equal terms and in the context of our own interests.

 

References

Agnihotri, Indu (1999) "Globalisation and the State", paper presented at DAWN Asia-Pacific Workshop on Political Restructuring and Social Transformation, 8-11 October, Thailand.

All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) (2000) Draft Report on Rape Research.

Ghosh, Jayati (1999) "Globalisation and Economic Liberalisation", ISIS Women in Action.

Jamieson, Lynn (2000) Lecture Series organised by the Gender Studies Unit, Universiti Malaya.

Maznah Mohamad, Cecilia Ng and Tan Beng Hui (forthcoming) "Globalisation, Industrialisation and Crisis: The Coming of Age of Malaysian Women Workers?" United Nations Human Development Report (1996–1999).

Women’s Development Collective (1999) Women’s Agenda for Change.

Wong, Diana (1999) "Globalisation Reconsidered: Social and Cultural Aspects from an Asian Perspective", unpublished manuscript.

_____________
*[The above paper was submitted to the conference on "Development and Liberation in the 3rd Millennium" organised in Kuala Lumpur by the URM and Development & Service desks of the Christian Conference of Asia. More papers from the conference are available at this website.]

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

BRUNEI

JIANG WARNS APEC LEADERS OF HIDDEN DANGERS OF GLOBALISED ECONOMY

November 16, 2000

China's President Jiang Zemin on Thursday warned 20 other leaders of Pacific-rim nations to beware of the hidden dangers of globalization -- from greater wealth disparities to cultural imperialism.

Jiang, speaking during the closed-door Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, said recent developments have further exposed the risks arising as economies become ever closer.

"We should not lose sight of the hidden worries facing the global economic development," he said, according to the text of his speech.

"The unstable capital and foreign exchange markets and international oil price hike have added to the adverse factors against economic growth."

Some countries, he said, react to globalization by raising barriers to foreign trade, while others seek to harness it to their own agendas.

"There are a few countries that have tried to force their own values, economic regime and social system on other countries by taking advantage of economic globalization," he said.

Elements in the Chinese leadership are concerned that an influx of foreign investment would mean an influx of liberal western -- and in particular American -- values.

China is on the point of experiencing globalization in a big way, as its entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- expected late this year or early next -- will pry its doors open to companies from around the world.

On the sidelines of APEC, Chinese and Mexican officials have been locked in tense negotiations over Beijing's WTO entry, but officials on Thursday conceded no agreement has been reached, and that talks will continue in Geneva.

A bilateral agreement with Mexico is one of the last remaining obstacles to China's accession to the global trade body after a 14-year struggle.

Jiang warned APEC leaders that while globalization brings greater risks to all countries, the poorer members of the world community are particularly exposed.

"Disadvantaged developing countries face new challenges to their economic sovereignty and economic security."

"Countries should be allowed to choose the road to development and determine the model and pace of opening up in light of their own national conditions," Jiang said.

Jiang promised China would not falter on its pledges to open its markets, made in order to gain entry into the WTO.

"China's accession to the WTO will be an important step to broaden its all-directional opening-up," he assured fellow APEC leaders. "After joining the WTO, we will honor our commitments in good faith."

Jiang urged governments to find ways to minimize the excesses of globalization and ensure it does not widen the gap between rich and poor countries.

"Effective international rules should be worked out with the concerted efforts of the international community on the basis of full participation of all countries," he said.

"(That way) the process of globalization can be correctly guided and managed and move in a direction of helping reduce the gap of wealth between North and South."

During the APEC forum Chinese officials refused to give a direct answer to where Beijing stood on the timing of a new round of global free trade talks at the WTO, an issue which divided rich and poor economies here.

China emerged relatively unscathed from the late-1990s financial crisis in the region, although its 7.1 percent economic growth last year was the slowest in nearly a decade.


============= =============


NZ REMOVES TARIFFS ON IMPORTS FROM THE POOREST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD

From July 2001 all of the least developed countries of the world will have duty-free access to New Zealand for all their imports, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today at the APEC leaders' meeting in Brunei.

"This is a significant move which demonstrates that international trade is not just about wealthy companies or well connected entrepreneurs," Helen Clark said.

"We want to ensure that the world trade system has room for the poorest people from the poorest countries. The rich nations must ensure that the benefits of globalisation are available for everyone and this is a tangible contribution.

"Last year, after the failure of the trade talks at Seattle, WTO Director-General Mike Moore challenged the world to open up trade for the poorest countries. From the point of view, as they struggle with massive debt and huge development problems, the trade debates between rich nations can seem irrelevant.

"Too often, trade agreements have excluded the very poor. They have no negotiating leverage but have real needs.

"As Mike Moore pointed out, if those countries are ever to support another round of international trade negotiations they have to know that they will gain. The best approach is to give them the key straight away, and this move will do that.

"I will be announcing this move to leaders at the APEC retreat today, and I will call on them to join New Zealand in this approach.

"Between us we could make a real difference for millions of the poorest people of the world. They don't just want our sympathy. They don't just want our aid. They want a chance to participate in a fair and inclusive trading system," Helen Clark said.

 

HONG KONG

JUSTICE TO THE ZHII FIRE VICTIMS
Shame on Artsana S.p.A./Chicco

No More Cosmetic Codes of Conduct. We Want TNCs-Binding Penal Laws!

The 7th anniversary of the Zhili Factory Fire is coming on Nov 19 this year, The nightmarish fire broke out in 1993. It claimed 87 lives and left 47 people injured. It is a complete shame on Artsana S.p.A/Chicco that after seven years of the fire, the big transnational company still disregards the victims, leaving them to bleed and suffer in dire straits.

The Zhili Factory produced toys for the Ita1ian transnational Company Artsana S.p.A/Chicco and through the exploitation of Chinese cheap labor and total disregard for the workers' occupational health and safety, Artsana S.p.A/Chicco has made astronomical profits. Yet after the fire, the company unethically refused to be responsible for the destroyed and crippled young lives it proliferated on. After years of struggle and pressure, Artsana S.p.A./Chicco finally promised to give out 300 million liras to over 130 victims in October 1997. However, in October 1999 it diverted the fund to other uses and left the victims with absolutely nothing. The Hong Kong Toy Coalition was absolutely livid and organized many demonstrations against the hypocritical transnational.

According to the Zhili fire victims, we know that Artsana S.p.A/Chicco has again given in to the solidarity of international labor struggles and re-pledged its promise to disburse the compensation fund to the Zhili fire victims. However, as we have always insisted, the compensation fund is too little and will leave each victim with a lump sum of only about RMB 9000 to 10000 (approx. USD 1100 to 1200). This IS absolutely unacceptable since the amount is so little that it can neither alleviate the plight of the families of deceased victims, nor pay for the medical expenses of the victims who are still suffering from the burnt wounds of the fire. The Hong Kong Toy Coalition find this absolutely ridiculous when Artsana S.p.A./Chicco refused to pay more on the excuse that it had already paid too high administrative costs, including trip expenses to Hong Kong for settling diverted fund and the consultant charges, etc. The administrative costs might well be much more than the total amount it has once denied the victims. This demonstrated again the inhumanity of the transnational companies that do not care at all for the workers they exploit.

In 1997 Chicco wrote up its code of conduct and in late 1998, the code was translated into Chinese. However, according to workers producing for Chicco in a subcontractor in south China, they know nothing about the code of conduct, and they still work for long hours of over 12 hours everyday with frequent forced overtime work, and they earn less than the official minimum wage but for the frequent forced overtime work. Chicco has neither made it its responsibility to ensure that workers producing for it know about the code of conduct and has in practice exploited Chinese workers again without regard for their working conditions and rights, leaving its code of conduct just another PR tool to coax customers like the codes of other transnational companies do.

The Hong Kong Toy Coalition condemns once again the hypocrisy of Artsana S.p.A./Chicco and the blatant impotency of TNCs' codes of conduct. We restate again that the auditing businesses which have proliferated for checking compliance for various codes, other than having led to job creations and increasing profits for the auditing companies, have not done good for the workers. The reliance on auditing companies to define compliance with workers' rights is undermining and virtually a privatization of the basic rights of workers to monitor and fight for their own rights. We call for concrete legislation binding transnational companies to pay compensation and take responsibility to workers producing for them under their subcontractor. We believe that only through penal laws with implementation can we pin down the transnational companies to be responsible for the workers they exploit through subcontracting businesses.

The Hong Kong Toy Coalition demand:

  1. Artsana S.p.A./Chicco immediately increase the amount of compensation to Zhili Factory Fire victims and pay them compensation according to their actual needs;
  2. Artsana S.p.A./Chicco immediately stop the violations of workers' rights in its subcontracting companies and stop fooling the public with its impotent Code of conduct;
  3. The Italian government and other governments legislate penal laws binding their transnational companies to be legally responsible for the workers producing for them under their subcontractors,
  4. The Chinese government ensures enforcement of its labor law to protect workers' rights.

_______________________
** [The above statement was issued by the Coalition for the Safe Production of Toys on the 7th anniversary of the Zhili Factory Fire.]

Please send petition letters to:

Artsana S.p.A./Chicco
Via Saldarini Catelli,
No.1, 22070 Grandate,
Como, Italy
Tel: (39)03 1382 602
Fax: (39)03 1382 400

Toy Coalition Contact:    May Wong / Chan Ka Wai
The Coalition for the Safe Production of Toys
444 Nathan Road 8-B Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2332 1346
Fax: (852) 2385 5319
Email: amrc@pacific.net.hk

 

INDONESIA

DETERIORATING HUMAN RIGHTS IN ACEH

Human Rights Watch has warned that the deteriorating situation in Aceh was rapidly becoming a test of President Wahid's authority and of civilian control over the military.

As student groups and nongovernmental organizations plan for major rallies in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh in support of a referendum on Aceh's political status, police and military units have been raiding NGO offices, arresting those involved in rally preparations, blocking transport, searching all vehicles headed for the capital, and shooting at rally participants trying to reach Banda Aceh. A similar rally last November 8 drew an estimated one million people to the capital.

"The Indonesian armed forces seem to be reverting to the worst days of the Soeharto era," said Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "In the misguided notion that the push for a referendum is led by GAM, the army and police are turning their guns on civilians." GAM is the acronym for Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or the Free Aceh Movement, a guerrilla group operating in Aceh since 1976.

In the latest incident, armed police recently raided the office of an organization called PEMRAKA (Command Post of Concerned Students and Acehnese) and arrested three student leaders, all of whom were members of the steering committee for the rally. Muhammad Taufiq Abda, Iqbal Selian, and Bustami, all in their mid-twenties, are believed to be in detention in the Banda Aceh police station.

Some twenty people are confirmed to have been killed in recent days in efforts to travel to Banda Aceh for the rally. Some local organizations put the death toll at over one hundred.

These violations are occurring even as senior Indonesian officials, led by the President, have publicly castigated the military for firing on demonstrators and activists, but thus far, nothing has been done to stop the shooting or arrest the perpetrators.

Indonesian security forces are making no effort to distinguish between actions by the guerrillas and peaceful protest on the part of civilian, mostly student, organizations.

 

CHINA

CHINA AND EUROPE REACH WTO DEAL

The EU and China have resolved their remaining disagreements over China's prospective membership of the World Trade Organisation. The two sides reached an agreement in May, but a number of issues subsequently emerged over how the deal would be implemented. The EU insisted on more talks about how China would licence foreign insurance companies and about the retailing and distribution of cars. A spokesman for EU Trade Representative, Pascal Lamy, said these issues have now been resolved.

By some measures China is the second-largest economy in the world. It is growing rapidly and it has an increasingly large role in international trade. But it is not a member of the World Trade Organisation, a major gap in the WTO's coverage of global commerce.

China has been trying for more than a decade to get into the WTO and its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Every existing WTO member is entitled to insist on having a bilateral trade deal with new applicants. The European Union thought it had concluded a deal last May, but needed until this month to resolve the insurance and automobile matters. A handful of other bilateral deals remain to be done - with Mexico, a few central American countries and New Zealand, which wants better access to China for its wool.

But the most complex work remaining concerns China's own preparations to bring itself into line with WTO rules. It is a time-consuming exercise which covers a range of very technical issues such as customs procedures. It will be very difficult for China and the WTO to finish it this year.

 

KOREA

THAW CONTINUES WITH PLAN FOR SINGLE TRADE CURRENCY
[AFP]

North and South Korea have agreed to launch a "Korean euro", their own single currency, for use in addition to US dollars for inter-Korean trade.

The two Koreas also exchanged lists of long-lost relatives, dispelling concerns about the North's threat to cancel a new round of family reunions set to start later this month.

The accord on the single currency came as both sides held a second and final day of economic talks in the communist state on finalising agreements on investment guarantees and the avoidance of double taxation between them. "The new currency would be the special means of payment to be used exclusively for inter-Korean trade settlement," South Korean Assistant Finance and Economy Minister Lee Kyong-Keun said.

The South's chief delegate compared the new inter-Korean currency to the euro, used in 11 European countries and launched in January last year. But he did not elaborate or say what the new currency would be called.

In another step towards healing more than half a century of separation, the two Koreas also exchanged lists of 200 people from each side who are anxiously awaiting reunion meetings with their long-lost relatives. The two Koreas will select 100 people from each list to be reunited with their families over three days from November 30.

The humanitarian event, to bring together families separated since the Cold War division of the peninsula in 1945, is one of the successful outcomes of the historic inter-Korean summit in June. The summit, between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, led to the first reunion of 200 people from each side in heart-wrenching scenes in Seoul in August. The two Koreas also agreed, during follow up peace talks, to organise another two reunions this year.

At separate economic talks in Pyongyang, South Korea negotiators cited progress but admitted they had not yet reached full agreement. "We have significantly narrowed our differences to finalise the four economic accords," the South's chief delegate Mr Lee said, according to South Korean reports from Pyongyang. He added: "We plan to iron out fully the differences, yet to be settled down, at the chief delegates' unofficial contacts."

During the first day of the economic talks, Mr Lee asked for "transparency" in checking how 150,000 tonnes of food aid sent last month was distributed in the North. The North disclosed in documents details of food distribution and allowed South Korean officials to inspect one of the food distribution centres. The North stated in the documents, which were also released in Seoul, that some food shipped from the South over the past month had yet to reach some "inland areas" due to a lack of transportation.

"I think the North is distributing the food in a transparent way," Mr Lee was quoted as saying in Pyongyang after the on-the-spot inspection.

 

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
 

SRI LANKA: MASSACRE IN CUSTODY
HOTLINE ASIA
UA001116(17)

SUMMARY

In the early hours of the morning of the 25th. of October 2000, a mob of over a thousand Sinhala villagers from the vicinity attacked the Bindunuweva Rehabilitation Centre near Bandarawela town (110 km. from Colombo), hacking to death at least 24 detainees and seriously injuring about 16 others. The detainees were all Tamils aged between 11 and 16 and had surrendered or been arrested as suspected members of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE) who are currently at war with the Sri Lankan government.

This camp was under the administrative control of the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) functioning under the Ministry of Youth Affairs. Two Army officers were in charge of the Centre and it is said that there was a good relationship between those in charge and the inmates. It was also disclosed that it was a model rehabilitation centre, an open camp where inmates were allowed to go outside to mix and work in the nearby village. A Police post was situated within the Centre and manned by personnel from the Bandarawela Police division.

'This bizarre massacre of youth in state custody is yet another shameful event in the history of our country' claims a source, 'We have had similar custodial killings in the past at Welikada Prisons (1983), Kalutara (1997) and again at Kalutara prisons in January this year.' In all these killings of people in custody nothing is known of the investigations made and of their findings.

ACTION REQUESTED

Please write polite letters to express your concern on this case and ask the authorities to:

  1. Appoint an independent Commission to inquire into who was responsible for this horrendous massacre, uncover the reasons for the inaction on the part of those in charge of the camp and make known to the public the report within a specified time.
  2. Provide maximum security to the surviving victims who are in military and government hospitals. These are the only 'true' witnesses of the crime.
  3. Formulate a just and fair process of rehabilitation for internally displaced persons in keeping with international standards.

Send letters to:

H.E. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge
President of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
Presidential Secretariat, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka
FAX 94-1-333 703

Send copies to:

1. Mr. T.E. Anandaraja
Acting Inspector General of Police
Police Headquarters
Colombo 1, Sri Lanka

2. Lt. General Rohan Daluwatte
Chief of the Defence Staff of the Jt. Operations Bureau
Sri Lanka Army, Army Headquarters,
Colombo 3, Sri Lanka

SAMPLE LETTER

We write with deep concern about the massacre in Bindunuweva Rehabilitation Center on October 25, 2000. There were at least 24 deaths and 16 injuries in this incident, and all were Tamils between the ages of 11 to 16 years. It was reported that similar custodial killings happened at least three times before in Welikada Prison in 1983, Kalutara in 1997 and reportedly in Kalutara early this year. We urge your government to appoint an independent commission to undertake an investigation and bring those responsible for the massacre in Bindunuweva to justice. The investigation should uncover the reasons for the inaction on the part of those in charge of the camp and make known to the public the report within a specified time. Moreover, we request you to provide security to the surviving victims who are in government and military hospitals. Finally, we hope that you will reconsider a fair and just rehabilitation process, based on internationally acceptable standards, for internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka.

BACKGROUND

At 5.00 a.m in the morning of 25 October 2000, around 2000 persons wielding knives, machetes, axes and iron rods stormed a rehabilitation centre in Bindunuwewa which houses more than 50 Tamil detainees. They hacked to death at least 24 defenceless Tamil political detainees and then set fire to the whole centre. 16 detainees were seriously wounded and a further seven were injured. Bindunuwewa is in Bandarawela district, in the central part of Sri Lanka.

Police officers on duty took no serious action to stop the violence. They called the army base, 15km away. By the time the (army) "rescue team" arrived two hours later, the horrific incident was over.

The centre was run by the National Youth Service Council. The young Tamil people housed there had been arbitrarily arrested under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations (ERs). Thousands of such arrests take place in the south of the island. Human rights organisations have denounced the PTA and ERs as facilitating torture and the violations of non-derogable rights such as the right to life. The United Nations (UN) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sri Lanka acceded in 1980, states in Article 9 (2) that persons arrested should receive prompt notification of the reason for their arrest and any charges made against them. Article 9 (3) states that they should be promptly brought before a judge and brought to trial or released. ER20, the Emergency regulation pertaining to Rehabilitation orders grossly and massively contravenes both these international human rights standards.

The Tamil youths who were in the centre were mostly under 19 years old. These detainees, arrested under the PTA, had been planning to hold a hunger strike to demand that they be either charged or released.

It is claimed that the Sri Lankan government encourages violence against young Tamils; this accusation based on the propaganda against Tamils to the injustice of the PTA and ER against them. There are many accusations of the routine use of torture of Tamil detainees. Recent reports of routine medieval style torture in Colombo detention centres, have also written of sexual violence against Tamil men and boys.

The civilian police and military authorities are all the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government, which failed to protect the lives of these innocent youth. The latest killings follow several others. In 1983 Sinhala convicts butchered 53 Tamil political prisoners in Welikade prison - prison guards joined in. In December 1997 three Tamils were hacked to death while guards looked on. Two Tamil political prisoners were murdered in Kalutara jail in January this year.

 

5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

Conference on Ideology, Faith and People Movement in the New Millennium

The above consultation, organised by the newly reorganised Faith Mission and Unity cluster of the Christian Conference of Asia, will be held in Chiangmai, Thailand from 8-11 December 2000. For more information contact Josef Widyatmadja at josefpw@cca.org.hk

Presentation papers from this conlsultation will be made available at our website soon after the consultation. So...keep a bookmark on this website.

 


END

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