It has been two years since Li Weijie’s unfortunate accident, despite the online support he got from labour rights lawyers, advocates and workers, not a single favourable ruling has come out. His chance of winning remain bleak, given the fact that it is a handicapped worker against the state power. But one thing is for sure: Li’s will is strong, and there is not a slight sign that Li is going to give up.

Li Weijie, a middle-aged former train driver from Henan, northern part of China, is now seeking a 920,000 yuan (around 92,000 pounds) compensation from his former employer.

Li had been working for the state-owned Zhengzhou Railway Bureau since 1995. In 2012, he suffered from a major work injury in 2012, leaving his lower body difficult to move. Later, he found himself demoted from his original position. Li was then suspended from duty after he complained about excess work hours. Li was angry, but he did not choose to remain silent. He started claiming for a re-assessment of his work injury, and filed a lawsuit against his former employer.

Li said on his weibo that during his stay with the Zhengzhou Railway Bureau, he had over 166 hours’ overtime work and hence deserved the overtime pay of 920,000 yuan.

If not in the era of social media, Li’s voice will probably be inundated in the spate of official propaganda and media censorship. As a matter of fact, ever since he started his pursuit of due right, he and his family were harassed and even threatened by local officials. Now, thanks to QQ and Weibo, Li has the tools that he can use to garner external support not only for his personal rights, but more importantly, for a better for train drivers and stewards across China, who have endured similar injustices such as excess work hours and unfair assessment fines.

In June 2013, Li set up a train driver QQ, which according to Li’s account, has become the largest train crew communication platform, and at the peak time, this QQ group has attracted over 700 train drivers from Guangzhou, Shenyang and Shanghai. Together this QQ group members discuss their common grievances and concerns and even the potential of a united strike.

Incidentally, in 27 August, around 300 train drivers in Nanchang, Jiangxi, an eastern costal province, held a collective work stoppage demanding higher salary and overtime pay. This strike lasted three days, and the result was encouraging, workers had a pay increase of at least 300 yuan and their overtime work paid.

Jiangxi train drivers protest against exploitation in front of their office

Jiangxi train drivers protest against exploitation in front of their office

Li was very impressed at the solidarity of the Jiangxi train drivers. He used his weibo to show support to the train drivers who have been mistreated or disrespected. Although China has no strong labour union that represents workers’ interest, workers have come to the realisation that they have to rely on themselves to unite and organise.

As for Li himself, it has been two years since his unfortunate accident. Despite the online support he got from labour rights lawyers, advocates and workers, not a single favourable ruling has come out. His chance of winning remain bleak, given the fact that it is a handicapped worker against the state power. But one thing is for sure: Li’s will is strong, and there is not a slight sign that Li is going to give up.

Jennifer is China Coordinator for Union Solidarity International. You can also find her on Twitter @amelia_jen 

A similar Chinese story on Li Weijiecan be found here.

Correction: Li’s accident injured his lower body, rather than upper body. This factual error was corrected on 27 September.


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Jennifer Zhang

Jennifer Zhang is USi’s China coordinator based in Hong Kong.

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