Slave Labor in China

I welcome Nat Hentoff's recent column "The Advancing Abolitionists" [June 13], which spotlighted China's role in slave labor in the Sudan. As an adviser to the AFL-CIO's Office of Investment, I would like to point out that the concerns raised by the campaign against the PetroChina IPO, which were brought up in Hentoff's column, go beyond the issue of China's role in slave labor in the Sudan.

The day before the Boston demonstration that Hentoff speaks of, the AFL-CIO, together with a coalition of anti-slavery, Free Tibet, environmental, and human rights groups, held an alternative "road show" at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, where Goldman Sachs, PetroChina's investment bankers, had planned to discuss its IPO with potential investors. On the morning of the planned event, it was moved to the Four Seasons Hotel.

The campaign succeeded in securing the commitment of investment funds with more than $1 trillion in assets to refuse to buy shares in the IPO. It was widely reported in the business press that PetroChina had hoped to raise as much as $10 billion. At the close of the offering, it had raised less than $3 billion, large portions of which were purchased by Beijing-friendly Hong Kong corporations. For several weeks afterward, PetroChina stock traded below its issue price.

Soon after the offering closed, the Chinese government announced a delay in planned IPOs of a major steel company and another oil company. Behind the PetroChina IPO and others like it are plans by the Chinese government to restructure state-owned enterprises, which would result in layoffs of tens of millions of workers. In my view, the PetroChina campaign put a major dent in plans to inflict "shock therapy" on Chinese workers. These workers have little prospect for alternative employment, except in the sweatshops that are established by multinational capital in the coastal export platforms. With independent unions outlawed, no effective free speech, and certainly no rule of law, one can only shake one's head in wonder at the idea floated by Clinton and Gore that the Internet will bring democracy to China.

The recent congressional vote endorsing permanent normal trade relations with China gives the regime a green light to carry out its restructuring plans. The next question on the agenda is this: When China's working class decides to take matters into its own hands—as it began to do in June 1989—what will managers of U.S. multinationals do? Allow PLA troops to guard their plants? Allow the Communist regime to shoot down striking workers?

Stephen Diamond
Assistant Professor of Law
Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California

Nat Hentoff replies: I would only add to Stephen Diamond's important factual analysis a question: Why has the mainstream media not reported this information?


I applaud the perseverance of John Clancy, artistic director of the Present Company, in the face of Michael Feingold's blanket dismissal of today's Off-Off-Broadway artists. While I respect Feingold's breadth of knowledge regarding classical theater, his article "Your Future, My Past" [June 13] illustrates how hopelessly out of touch he is with what is happening now, and how well he fits his own description of "scholars who were never there."

Why is the chief theater critic for the Voice waiting for a list of recommended artists and not seeking out today's envelope pushers and rule breakers, asking and investigating why they are doing the work they are doing? Instead, Feingold is waiting for the artists to come to him, excusing himself by saying that they "have not caught my attention," only to again dismiss them when they do just that, as evidenced by this article. Off-Off-Broadway has never been the place for such complacency.

The Village Voice, by its very name, purports to speak for Downtown—does it speak for today's Downtown, or mourn yesterday's?

Boo Froebel

Michael Feingold replies: I guess "classical" means "north of Houston Street," since I am, to my misery, too much in touch with what happens up there. As I thought the piece made clear, my ventures farther south haven't shown me many envelope pushers. My praise must mean something to the few there are, though, since Froebel's flyers for the theater troupe Elevator Repair Service freely quote me. People who expect the Voice to speak for them, rather than for itself, misunderstand journalism's function in the arts—maybe because they're still trying to break rules that got shattered long ago.

Pat Answers

Regarding Ed Condran's completely upsetting article "Can Mr. Smith-ereen Go to Washington?" [June 20] about my campaign for the U.S. Senate from New Jersey: Let me clear the air about a few things.

Please believe me when I say that I have no agenda other than to serve my country and all citizens faithfully regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual preference, or political ideology in the most honest, forthright, and compassionate way possible. I believe in helping all people, and that we are all part of the same family. I believe in equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal protection under the law for everyone. I am most certainly not a self-appointed standard-bearer or champion for the supposed "oppressed white male," and I despise intolerance, exclusion, and racial hatred of any kind.

I am sincerely sorry that certain out-of-context quotes culled and woven into the article from previous rock and roll interviews done with the author some time ago and the tone of the article make me appear to be anything other than someone who believes in and lives by the words "love thy neighbor."

I have a daughter I love and care about more than anything else on this earth, and I want the best for her. In fact, the only reason I'm involved in this campaign is because I want to help make this country a better, safer, and more compassionate place for my six-year-old daughter and all our girls and boys to grow up in. And, believe me, nothing would make me happier than to see one of our daughters grow up to become president one day very soon.

Pat DiNizio
Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Ed Condran replies: Some of the quotes were taken from a chat at a suburban Philadelphia hoagie shop, which, as I wrote, occurred "on a Smithereens promo tour." Other quotes were collected throughout the last few months. I stand by the context.

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