The hottest video on the Chinese Internet for the past few days is a short clip titled “Press conference of migrant workers demanding salaries.” The video was shot by two migrant workers who demanded their overdue project payment of over 14 million yuan from Hangu Mortuary Service Office in Tianjin. Not only did they photoshoped a setting that resembled a regular press conference by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they also incorporated high-frequency words and sentences routinely used by official Chinese spokespersons. Many netizens commented: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should hire them!”
The video is amazing not only because two migrant workers skillfully incorporated Chinese spokesperson cliches into their own requests, but also because the extend to which social media have empowered the under privileged in China. The clip is fun to watch but sad to think about. In the current China where there is no effective channel for bottom-up appeals and where ordinary people trust social media more than official sources, only those who can get enough attention on the Internet have a chance to have their problems solved.
The woman started with “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and our friends at the Bureau for Letters and Calls.” She went on explaining the case. She and her “migrant worker brothers” completed a project for Hangu Mortuary Service Office but never received any payment. They urged the Office to pay them the past-due amount of over 14 million yuan several times, but “in spite of the friendly working relationship between them and the Mortuary Service Office,” the Office “for several times, expressed their unwillingness to pay.”
Such refusal to pay, according to the video, was “against facts and against the current goal of stability preservation” and has not only harmed “our [migrant workers’] legitimate rights,” but also “the public image of the Office itself.”
Their demand is “fully backed by jurisprudential evidence.” Back in 2009, local court in Tiajin already issued an order that the Mortuary Service Office should pay these migrant workers back “unconditionally”. Out of the 14 million yuan project payment, 3.5 million were salaries for migrant workers who have “shed sweat and blood” for the project . To “protest the rights of migrant workers,” they have “lodged solemn representations to” the Hangu Mortuary Service Office several times and “hereby strongly demand an immediate, unconditional payback.”
In addition to Hangu Mortuary Office, local Bureau of Civil Affairs, management organ of the mortuary office, also “played a dishonorable role” in the case. Certain official at the Bureau said a winning law suit against the government by migrant workers “brought great harm to the image of local government and thus no payment ordered by court should be made” . The migrant worker spokesperson expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over the remarks because such remarks “had no ground and were against the principle of serving the people.”
Banner: “Refusing to pay migrant workers salaries is an action damaging harmony.”
These two migrant workers almost used all stock phrases commonly used by Chinese spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The most genius parts came from the following to moments.
An official at local Bureau of Civil Affairs: “I am the government. If I say no pay, then no pay. What can you do?”
The migrant worker spokeswoman: “We stand by the principle of peacefully, reasonably and legally demanding payment. Our petition is in line with building a harmonious society and preserving stability.”
Journalist played by another migrant worker: “What if Hangu Mortuary Office continues to refuse to pay? Thank you.”
The migrant worker spokeswoman: “It’s a good question. No matter what excuses they use, their refusal to pay is illegal and invalid and will not change the fact that they should pay us 35 million as salaries.”
Journalist played by another migrant worker: “Rumors have it that Hangu Morturary Office is operated like a family business. Are there signs of corruption? What’s your comment on the rumor? Thank you.”
The migrant worker spokeswoman: “It’s their internal affairs. We don’t interfere with their internal affairs. Thank you.”