Labor Rights Activist and Organizer
Han Dongfang (born 1963) has been an advocate for workers’ rights in China for more than two decades. He has won numerous international awards, including the 1993 Democracy Award from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy.
Born in the impoverished village of Nanweiquan in Shanxi, Han first came to international prominence when, as a railway worker in Beijing, he helped set up the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation (BWAF) during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The BWAF was the People’s Republic of China’s first independent trade union, established as an alternative to the Party-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions.
The BWAF was disbanded after the June 4 crackdown, and Han was placed at the top of the Chinese government’s most wanted list. He turned himself in to the police and was imprisoned for 22 months without trial until he contacted tuberculosis in prison and was released in April 1991. He spent a year in the U.S. undergoing medical treatment before returning to China in August 1993. On his return, he was arrested in Guangzhou and expelled to Hong Kong, where he still lives today.
In 1994, he established China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization that seeks to uphold and defend the rights of workers across China.
In addition to his work at CLB, Han conducts regular interviews with workers and peasants across China on Radio Free Asia. These interviews give insight into lives of workers in China, and are broadcast three times weekly on shortwave radio.