Colours of Money, Shades of Pride

Colours of Money, Shades of Pride: Historicities and Moral Politics in Industrial Conflicts in Hong Kong

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 456
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Colours of Money, Shades of Pride
    Book Description:

    In June 1986, a Japanese watch factory in Hong Kong tried to fire 36 of its women workers. This provoked an unprecedented sit-in by 300 of the women employed at the plant. The sit-in lasted for 13 days and accounted for over half the days lost to labour unrest that year. At the time Fred Chiu, an ex-prisoner of consciousness in Taiwan, was studying industrial conflicts in Hong Kong. Although an anthropologist, he became deeply and personally involved in the strike. In this account of those intense days, he 'combines the art of the story-teller with the wizardry of the sophisticated social theorist' to report the events and to interpret them in a style characterized by clarity, vigour and honesty.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-080-7
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface Colours of Money, Shades of Pride: An Artisan’s Self-Representation
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Fred Y. L. Chiu
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. Cast of Characters
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  6. Map
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    During the first two weeks of June 1986, an unprecedented strike and sit-in broke out at the Japan Watch Multinational (JWM) in Hong Kong. It erupted spontaneously after thirty-six workers were fired on 31 May.

    Or was it nineteen?

    In the papers of 1 June, about two-thirds of the reports stated that thirty-six had been fired; the other third reported nineteen. By 4 June, some papers reported that seventeen more had been fired, bringing the total to thirty-six, but that only raised another question: Had they been fired on 31 May or later? And where did these conflicting reports come...

  8. 2 Hong Kong and the Japan Watch Multinational: The Political Economy of Profit-Generating Machines on a Capitalist Periphery
    (pp. 29-50)

    Hong Kong was formerly a British enclave at the mouth of the Pearl River. The island was occupied by the British in 1841, during the first Opium War (1839–42) between Britain and China. Its secession to Britain was ratified in the Treaty of Nanking (1842). Further territory (Kowloon) was added in 1860, and in 1898 the New Territories were added on a 99-year rent-free lease, by agreement between Britain and China.

    The enclave comprises just 398 square miles, and in 1986 had a population of six million, including a 1.5 percent non-Chinese population. The population is largely concentrated in two...

  9. 3 On Methodologies and Procedures
    (pp. 51-68)

    To use various incidents in our case to illuminate things cultural, social, political and economic, three genres of narrative have been set out to serve as referents. However, the physicality of these referents is not to be taken for granted, for they neither simply exist ‘somewhere out there’ nor exist merely as linguistic utterances They are discursive artefacts, the cumulative hybrid of numerous ‘events’ and ‘structures’. Events are structurally defined and structures are mentally formed out of events, but ‘event’ and ‘structure’, as parts of dialogical existence, are no more than things discursively perceived. The comprehensibility of each results from...

  10. 4 The Ethnographic Narrative I: Before the Event (Day -35 to Day -2)
    (pp. 69-132)

    For eight months Ma Po-kwan had tried everything possible to get a factory job in order to carry out field research on shop-floor dynamics in Hong Kong. He shaved off his moustache, cut his hair, changed his eyeglasses and went on a diet — all to no avail. Friends remarked, ‘You don’t look like a worker and don’t act Chinese’ But the real problem was that Ma was male. It was women that did the work in Hong Kong’s electronic processing industries.

    So Ma volunteered at the Central Kwai Chung Resident and Labour Service (CKRLS) and Tsuen Wan Labour Service Centre...

  11. 5 The Ethnographic Narrative II: During the Event (Day -2 to Day +1)
    (pp. 133-244)

    The situation was pressing. A letter to the Registrar of Trade Unions, informing him of the union’s inaugural meeting, was drafted: ‘Since at present there is a dispute between the production line workers and the management, we write to you in the hope that you will expedite the processing of our case as we fear that the management might sabotage our union and use excuses to dismiss those who are involved.’ The letter was signed by the organizing committee of the union. Its purpose was to establish an official record of the de facto existence of the union and the...

  12. 6 The Ethnographic Narrative III: After the Event (Day +1 to April 1987 and beyond)
    (pp. 245-276)

    Gu and Fu called JWM from the Centre at 10:00 a.m. and learned that there was no work for the weekend. Production would resume on Monday. Management undoubtedly wanted to distance itself from the memory of the sit-in, but the Centre’s job was to keep the memory and its spirit alive — the struggle was not over.

    Through a teleconference, the workers’ leaders agreed to the designing of a thank-you card in the union’s name to be mailed to their supporters. Eighteen supporters — nine of the thirty-six dismissed and nine of the second- and third-line leaders — agreed to form a core...

  13. 7 The Reflexive Narratives: Strategic Dialogues and Dialogical Strategies, Narratives of the Coming-into-Consciousness of Being Historical Agents
    (pp. 277-358)

    These are typical of the statements I heard when I returned to Hong Kong in September 1987 and began inquiring into the pre-event history of the JWM dispute. Step by step, as records of my conversation with workers accumulated, I was led discursively across the contested terrain of consciousness-forming and concept-making, logic and counter-logic. I will now retell the story of the strike from the problematic of consciousness-formation, to illuminate its complexity.

    In the middle of March 1986, eighty days prior to the sit-in, Chien Fon-yi’s friend, a bookkeeper in the office, told her that the Resignation Meritorious Service Award...

  14. 8 Opening up, by Way of an Epilogue
    (pp. 359-384)

    In concluding this ethnographic project and in initiating detailed analyses which lead beyond the scope of this monograph, some observations and provisional formulations are in order, to indicate the nature of the problematique.

    Throughout the JWM case what was conspicuous, at least to this student of industrial sociology, was the absence of anything called ‘industrial solidarity’ among the struggling workers. Hidden layers of social connectedness outside the industrial context were the adhesive binding together the 300-plus young women. The forms of these linkages, which represented complicated relationships, were extremely dynamic and fluid. A number of attempts to pinpoint their existence...

  15. Appendix: Selected Reports from the Press — the Journalistic Construction of Reality as Discursive Practice
    (pp. 385-422)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 423-428)