Nous, les travailleurs
Documentaire de Wen Hai intitulé “We the Workers” , International Film Festival Rotterdam 2017.
Between 2009 and 2015, Wen Hai followed the lives of workers and worker activists in southern China, the world’s factory. His occasionally astonishing film gives nameless workers a face, shows their vital sense of justice and resistance to owners who are only interested in profits – and how they escape the role of victim. Epic.
After an imposing opening in which Chinese labourers work on a giant metal construction and the sounds of angle grinders and hammers on metal come together rhythmically, the documentary switches to the seamier side of the Chinese economic miracle – the exploitation of hundreds of millions of workers.
Experiences gathered by specialised bureaus defending workers’ rights expose a practice of underpayment, bad working conditions and wrongful dismissal. Activists are arrested and abused – sometimes by criminals, sometimes just by the police. Lawyers are pestered and discouraged from taking cases. The bureaus themselves are regarded by the state as troublemakers, but they are the ones encouraging workers not to strike and to solve disagreements under the law. Yet some keep their doors permanently locked and only let people they know inside, for fear of reprisals. In terms of labour rights, China is several decades behind Europe, and people who want to do something about that are subjected to intimidation. Or worse.