By Xinhua writers Guan Xinguo, Cheng Yunjie and Zhong Qun
BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) -- For the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Gushi County, Henan Province, living and working in Beijing, their first port of call if they are ever in trouble is a powerful emissary from their distant hometowns.
Most migrant workers are loosely connected with local branches of the Communist Party of China (CPC) where they grew up, but natives of Gushi in their nation's capital are represented by the Working Committee sent by Gushi County Committee of the CPC to Beijing -- the Party's first such organization for migrant workers in their new cities.
This outpost in Beijing has helped migrant workers from Gushi handle 109 labor disputes and 680 other legal cases, and retrieved 47.6 million yuan (about 7.15 million U.S. Dollars) in unpaid wages.
The pilot project showcases the Party's resolution to ensure China's floating population are not left adrift in their adopted homes.
Miao Zhenshui, a retired military officer who has led the working committee since 2008, has been named one of the year's 100 best Party workers and will attend an award ceremony on July 1, the 95th anniversary of the Party's establishment.
"Party building among the transient population is a challenge for the CPC. My team is just exploring what improvements we can make at the local level to better serve the country's 270 million migrant workers," said Miao.
Under the working committee, there are 32 branches, led by first-generation migrants who are business owners or entrepreneurs, and undertake Party work without pay.
"All branch leaders understand what it is like to be a migrant worker and this motivates us to help," said Miao.
CALM IN DISPUTE SETTLEMENT
Migrant workers are usually poor and lack legal knowledge. To remedy the situation, Miao has assigned commissaries to each Party branch to disseminate economic information and offer legal advice.
Lawyer Wang Junlin, who provides legal assistance to migrant workers at the request of the working committee, has become accustomed to getting late-night calls from Miao or the 32 branch chiefs. These Party workers provide 24/7 services to the Gushi migrants.
Another lawyer, Diao Jiabing, recalled a migrant worker who had been severely injured while working in Beijing. His family had mobilized dozens of Gushi natives to block the gates of the company to demand compensation.
Miao called Diao, who rushed to the site, dispersed the workers and helped them seek compensation through legal means.
"Cash-strapped, lonely and stuck in an unfamiliar environment, quite a number of migrant workers are fractious. When misfortune hits, they can easily change from a victim to a perpetrator if no one comes to their rescue," said Diao.
Wei Jianhe, a member of the working committee, said most disputes lodged by the migrants are about house demolitions, accidents, work injuries and petitions.
"Demolition, in particular, is time-consuming and involves lots of money," Wei said. "If not handled properly, emotions can escalate."
Such disputes are no longer irreconcilable as the influence of the working committee grows.
In mid June, Zhang Wei, who ran a recycling plant in a northwest suburban district of Beijing, agreed to close his business and vacate his rented plot of land to make way for an anti-pollution project.
Though he was compensated by the government, he estimated that the order to close cost him 30 million yuan (about 4.5 million U.S. dollars) in potential earnings. Zhang didn't complain, however, as Miao had urged him that the interests of the public should be put before his own, so long as he recovered his initial investment.
"I thought he would negotiate with the local government for us, but he refused, saying that the health of the 21 million residents of Beijing was more important," said Zhang.
When the wife and son of another Gushi native, who worked as a garbage collector in Beijing, were killed in a burglary a few years ago, it was the working committee that organized a donation and found a lawyer for the migrant worker, helping him through the tragedy.
"I was really impressed by the dedication of the Party members with the committee. They are people you can always fall back on," he said.
POWER OF MIGRANT WORKERS
After spending such a lot of time with migrant workers, Miao thinks this ever-growing population deserves attention from society not because of their vulnerability, but their growing strength.
"After 30 years of hard work, many of the first generation of migrant workers have established their own businesses. By forming 14 chambers of commerce at township levels under the committee, we have been able to mobilize more Gushi people from industrial and commercial circles who are not Communists to help young migrant workers secure better jobs here and support economic development back in their hometowns," he said.
But the tool of mobilization Miao favors is not propaganda but service.
With China steering the regional trade and infrastructure drive known as the Belt and Road Initiative, Miao invited senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and economists with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee to explain to Gushi migrants what opportunities the scheme would present for them and their hometowns. Government officials from Gushi County were also invited.
"My intention is to keep them informed of China's latest policies and help make their businesses more competitive," said Miao. "It would be great if they could integrate more social responsibility into their corporate development for the good of our home county and the country."
Many chambers of commerce have invested in Gushi, in areas ranging from nursery gardens to education.
Yong Wenfu, who came to Beijing in 1993 and now runs a building material company, just signed a contract for a project in Gushi worth 70 million yuan. He said when the project was being discussed, Miao called, advising him to put the interests of local governments and people first and not to demand too much money.
Yong followed the instruction from his "elder brother."
"We know he is giving us a friendly reminder: Don't forget you are a member of the Party," said Yong.
Inspired by the dedication of the working committee, more than 100 migrant workers from Gushi have applied to join the Party and 37 have become a formal member of the Party in the past eight years.
Wang Jinlong, director of the Information Office of the CPC Central Committee's Party School, said Party leaders had required their grass-root organizations to improve services.
"Miao and his working committee faithfully followed the instruction and that's why they have won popularity among the people," Wang said.
Based on the experience in Beijing, Gushi has opened 140 Party branches and four working committees across China.
"More innovation like this is definitely needed," said Miao. "A useful gauge for me to judge a scheme is to think about the needs of the people. Do they really need it? I keep asking this question to make sure our work is on the right track."