Founder of Chinese Delivery Drivers Alliance Arrested for Rights Activism

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Recently, the founder of the Drivers’ Alliance, a reciprocal aid network of Chinese carriers, was arrested in Peking for setting up a union-like civil organisation to protect workers’ rights. His arrest attracted attention both domestically and internationally.

Xiong Yan, a native of the province of Guizhou and whose actual name is Chen Tianhe, helped his fellow pilots defend his rights shortly after he became a pilot in Beijing in 2018. According to Radio Free Asia, Drivers’ Alliance is a group that currently has more than 14,000 members in Chinese social media (RFA).

Last month Xiong posted videos on the Drivers’ Alliance social media account, accusing Ele.me’s leading online food supply platform, accusing its employees of fraud and cheating, according to Chinese media outlets. This resulted in his latest arrest.

During the Chinese New Year (Feb. 12 to Feb. 26), several delivery drivers stayed in Beijing due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions of the Chinese regime and continued working during the holiday season. Ele.me launched its drivers with a holiday bonus system. But it was hard for the drivers to get the bonus. For example, every driver had to deliver up to 380 orders in seven days. According to Chinese news portal 163.com, the workers were cheated and planned to strike.

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One driver posted on Chinese social media: “A lot of businesses have not yet resumed work in the Chinese New Year, this order is basically impossible to fulfil.”

A further post read: If you don’t meet the quota within one week, you will receive 3600 yuan less [about $555]. The supplier can save a lot of money.”

Xiong said in the video, according to some networks’ feedback, other delivery platforms did not provide their drivers with the bonuses they promised. “The platforms don’t have any scruples [for] because they have the ultimate say.”

He expects the companies to honour their commitments and says in the video, ‘Don’t wait until they [drivers] leave everything.’ He invited delivery drivers throughout the country to voice their views actively through social media.

On Feb. 19, Ele.me published a statement on their official Weibo account: “The anticipated volume of delivery in some cities and business districts was inaccurate, leading to the sixth phase (February 15-21) quotas being placed too high in these areas. We excuse the delivery drivers.”

RFA confirmed on 1 March that after several days missing Xiong and more than 10 of his close friends were arrested by police in Beijing. The last time Xiong posted on the Drivers’ Alliance social media account was on Feb. 24.

The RFA report also noted the removal from the Internet of many Xiong Chinese media reports and the Drivers’ Alliance’s work since 2020, including sources calling the alliance an early stage of a trade union.

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