Socialist Worker

Chinese Whispers: Exposing the exploitation of migrant workers

by Larry Herman
Issue No. 2100

John Pilger recently edited a book of articles by investigative journalists including Martha Gellhorn, Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh and Paul Foot, written over recent decades.

Pilger’s underlying point was that there are very few people determined to report the world according to facts. Instead, most of our news is written and presented as episodic entertainment.

This ensures confusion and helps keep up support for those who are determined to control our lives.

Penguin has just published Hsiao-Hung Pai’s new book – and now we all can become aware of another investigative writer determined to expose what passes for civilisation in our voracious people-consuming world.

The vast movement of people from rural areas of the world to towns and cities is a profound feature of our time.

According to the United Nations, for the first time in world history there are now more people living in towns than in the countryside. Why has this happened and who are the people migrating in this epoch?

Hsiao-Hung exposes a decaying economic system that requires Chinese people to leave familiar homes and villages, and be shunted thousands of miles at great personal expense to work in Britain.

She writes vividly about the victims of this vicious system and relentlessly tracks down those responsible for it.

It is a system that requires the degradation and often the death of working people – all in order to further enrich that extraordinarily narrow slice of wealthy humanity.

These undocumented Chinese workers never see the statutory minimum wage. Many migrant people expect the stereotypical land of opportunity, but they quickly see for themselves the lies perpetrated to ensure money is accumulated – not for them, but for all those around them who prosper because of their devastating exploitation.

Hsiao-Hung Pai is among that small band of journalists who refuse to go down the road of wearily acquiescing and willfully obeying all that’s required of them to sustain the status quo.

She comes from the other side – from a different and laudable tradition of radical journalism.

Available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to »

Larry Herman’s photographs of hourly paid workers in London were recently profiled in Socialist Worker – go to » Waged London

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Tue 6 May 2008, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2100
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