From Migrant Worker to Reform Pioneer

ByZhang Jiamin March 1, 2024
From Migrant Worker to Reform Pioneer
Hu Xiaoyan, a recipient of the Reform Pioneer medal, and deputy chairperson of Sanshui Federation of Industry and Commerce (General Chamber of Commerce), in Foshan, a city in South China's Guangdong Province

Striving for Success

In December 1998, Hu, then 24 years old, left her hometown, Wusheng (a county in Guang'an, a city in Southwest China's Sichuan Province) to move to Foshan, to perform a manual-labor job. It took her three days to reach her destination. 

Soon after China implemented its reform and opening up (in 1978), the country began developing its manufacturing industry. As the most manufacturing-intensive province, Guangdong had large demand for labor. Several months later, an electronics factory (in Foshan) employed Hu as an assembly line worker. Despite the long hours, she felt the work was much easier than farm work. 

In 2002, Foshan Sanshui Xinmingzhu Jiantao (Ceramics) Industry Co. Ltd. employed Hu as an assembly line worker. She worked hard, and she made great efforts to improve her ceramics-processing skills. Given her outstanding work performance, she was promoted to deputy director and sales executive of the company's finished products workshop within two years. 

In the years that followed, Hu received many honors in recognition of her efforts and hard work. For example, she was named a top 10 migrant worker in Sanshui in 2006; the next year, she was selected a top 10 migrant worker in Foshan. In December 2018, Hu was named one of the country's 100 reform pioneers by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. 

In 2009, Pearl River Film Co., Ltd., under Pearl River Film Group (in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province), shot a movie, City of Dream, based on Hu's story. By drawing inspiration from Hu's work experiences, the film company created a touching plot (in the movie): As Lin Fang, the protagonist, provided the pre-job training to the company's new employees, she stressed they should work conscientiously, have a strong sense of responsibility, and comply with the company's overall arrangements.

From Migrant Worker to Reform Pioneer

Voicing Migrant Workers' Heartfelt Wishes

In January 2008, Hu was elected a deputy to the 11th NPC. She became the first migrant worker to be elected an NPC deputy. 

During the First Session of the 11th Guangdong Provincial People's Congress (in January 2008), 740 of the 773 representatives voted for Hu as an NPC deputy. Hu's election as an NPC deputy marked a milestone in China's democratic political construction. "I see the hope and future of migrant workers ... I should work hard to live up to the expectations of migrant workers (in the country)," Hu was quoted as saying. Within a short time, she began learning how to conduct surveys, write proposals and give public speeches, to fulfill her duties as an NPC deputy. 

Hu will never forget the "glorious moment" when she entered the Great Hall of the People for the first time in her life. That happened on March 5, 2008, when the First Session of the 11th NPC opened. "I was so excited that I felt as if I were in a dream ... However, I was aware I represented numerous migrant workers," recalls Hu. 

Shortly after the congress, Hu busied herself with answering phone calls from migrant workers (across the country), who shared their needs and difficulties in their lives. In 2010, the Guangdong Federation of Trade Unions established the Haiyan Mailbox, to collect letters from migrant workers (from various regions of the country). 

To collect more ideas from migrant workers (across the country), Hu collaborated with Southern Workers Daily, sponsored by the unions, to create the Haiyan Mailbox Column that year. A short time after she was relieved of her office as an NPC deputy (in 2012), Hu handed over the right to manage the mailbox to Zeng Xianggui, a deputy to the 12th NPC. The mailbox remained a medium for migrant workers to voice their heartfelt wishes. 

Between 2008-2012, Hu made 20 proposals during the annual NPC, to improve welfare services for migrant workers. For example, she proposed greater efforts should be made to ensure workers are paid on time, to improve the workers' medical and housing benefits, and to provide education to workers' children. "I have witnessed the great changes in migrant workers' lives during the past four decades, as China has implemented its policy of reform and opening up ... Given the improvement of China's social security system, many migrant workers have lived more secure lives," she says. 

In 2011, Hu collaborated with a public-welfare organization to establish Xiaoyan Summer Park (in Foshan). Within a short time, the park's workers led migrant workers' children in visiting their parents' workplaces, so the children could better understand their parents' hardships and difficulties (in work). Also, the workers could spend time with their children. During the past decade, numerous migrant workers' families have participated in activities conducted by the park. 

In 2012, Hu was named vice-president of the Sanshui Federation of Trade Unions, after she passed Guangdong's civil-servant examination. She oversees work related to protecting the rights and interests of workers (in Sanshui), to ensuring safety production of enterprises and institutions, and to promoting the economic development of the enterprises and institutions. Many migrant workers have trusted Hu, as they have considered her to be one of them. Every day, Hu replies to the questions of many migrant workers. The work requires tremendous patience. 

In 2021, Hu assumed the post of vice-chairperson of Sanshui Federation of Industry and Commerce (General Chamber of Commerce). As she made constant efforts to upgrade her knowledge, Hu conducted investigations at enterprises (in Sanshui), to learn about their needs, and about the difficulties they encountered in their development. She vows to devote more efforts to help enterprises and residents solve the difficulties in their development and lives, respectively. She also hopes to introduce more high-quality projects to Sanshui, to promote the district's social and economic development. 

"I'm lucky enough to live in good times ... Given the implementation of China's policy of reform and opening up, I, an ordinary migrant worker, have had an opportunity to realize my dream," says Hu.


Photos Supplied by Interviewee and VCG 

(Women of China English Monthly December 2023)


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