The thing to remember about China is that all unions are state controlled. Independent unions are illegal.
Yet China Foreign Teachers Union (CFTU) claims to be the one exception in the whole country.
Yet that is what the CFTU is claiming they can do.
The first warning to all expats in China is to never give out your name and details to anybody, without first verifying who they are, and the reason for needing the information.
Most likely, CFTU is a Chinese operation that serves one or more of the following functions:
- Collects the names of foreign teachers on behalf of the government. The teachers will then be reported as illegal, or as potential troublemakers
- Collects the names of foreign teachers that are not currently working, and such names are then sold to agents looking for teachers. Agents are the worst possible way of finding teaching work in China. Many expats report getting unsolicited calls from agents soon after contacting CFTU.
- Collects the names of schools and agents that have hired teachers illegally, and then blackmails those schools and agents.
Other reports believe that it is a single individual, fabricating a bizarre illusion by creating multiple websites and usernames, andexpat bulletin boards and news sites.As with many things in China, it is hard to know what to believe, though the fact that it is operating suggests it is government sanctioned.
Anyone who doesn’t cooperate with CFTU gets spammed with defamation all over the internet. China Daily Mail and its editor, Craig Hill, have been victims of CFTU’s vexatious tirades, because they refused to assist in this scam.
In fact, almost every expat site in China has banned them, though the occasional posting slips through, due to the sheer volume of their spamming.
They create countless WordPress and Blogger sites, telling outrageous lies about their victims – anyone who won’t cooperate with them. Their sites includes China Scam Patrol, China Scam Busters and others.
eChinacities.com, one of China’s most popular expat sites, reports more than eight months of constant spamming by dozens of fake user accounts associated with CFTU:
Even if one were to believe CFTU’s spam and propaganda, that they are indeed a genuine organisation, that would mean they have been operating illegally for many years in China without being caught, jailed and deported. That is highly unlikely.
Whatever the truth about this organisation, one thing that is extremely concerning is that they are collecting the names, details and grievances of foreign teachers. Such information will quickly end up in the hands of police and government regulators. One can almost bet money that such information will be detrimental to those foreign teachers.
If it is a Chinese operation, the information will be handed over willingly to authorities. This could also be the case if it is being run by foreigners, to keep the police at bay; that would explain why they have been allowed to operate illegally for so long. If it is a non-sanctioned illegal operation, the police will simply take the information through hacking, or walk in and take the computer. The end result is that the information will end up in the hands of Chinese authorities.
At this point, I would like to put forward the reasons that I suspect this is operation is controlled by the Chinese government. On the surface, CFTU claims to be an organisation set up by volunteers to help foreigner teachers. It also appears to be naming and shaming scam agents. However, like many things in China, things aren’t always what they seem.
On further investigation, it is revealed to be a commercial operation to recover unpaid money from schools and agents. For a fee, of course. There also appears to be a paid membership scheme in place. EDIT: Since this article was posted, CFTU have removed this from their websites, and deny that it had ever been there.
The following is not meant as evidence; the fact that independent unions are illegal in China is sufficient to warn any sound-thinking person to keep right away from this organisation. It is simply a list of concerns that I have about CFTU, that should urge all expats to proceed with caution if dealing with them:
To use the “services” of CFTU, one needs to register on a website that looks like it was designed by a very young child. The website has no names or photos of the people running it, what their qualifications to run a union are, no address, no phone number and just a single unlinked email address. There are also a lot of unsubstantiated anecdotes, and spiteful attacks on agents.
It also does not explain how an illegal union is allowed to operate in China. Teachers are probably reporting themselves for working illegally, or branding themselves as trouble makers. Belonging to such a union is illegal in China. Warning light 1.
The CFTU floods China’s expat sites with spam user accounts, which seek to give the false impression that a lot of foreigners are endorsing the service. Warning light 2
Some examples are at:
Not being totally adverse to such an operation, if it is genuine, I set out to find out more. My email asking for more information, and offering to promote their service on this and other websites, was met with stony silence. A response when things aren’t what they seem, and warning light 3.
That is not to say I did not receive emails from them, under their various identities. One email asked me to side with them against many of the expat sites, because they advertised for a specific agent in Beijing. It seemed the writer was out for revenge on this agent. My guess is because the agent didn’t pay money to the union. Such extortion is common in China. Warning light 4. Click here to see this email.
I received another email today, from sarahplane, demanding an apology for exposing her as a scam on another website. The email went to great lengths to convince me that she was genuine, even denouncing CFTU, and that she was not one of the multiple identities. Again, a typical reaction from a Chinese person who has lost face. Also, the need to “fool the foreigner” that is almost obligatory amongst Chinese scammers. One of Sarah’s spam posts, typical of the hundreds that CFTU inundate expat sites with, is reproduced here, and another is reproduced below. Warning light 5.
The website of the CFTU boasts of recommendations from other websites. However, all these websites are virtually the exact same thing, and appear to have been set up specifically, though carelessly, to give each other credibility. I have seen similar setups, though much more elaborate, when investigating frauds in Australia. Warning light 6. EDIT: Since this article was posted, CFTU have removed this from their websites, and deny that it had ever been there.
All the operators of the CFTU website remain anonymous, but require new members to divulge their identities. Warning light 7.
The CFTU website also urges foreigners not to hire lawyers or use other legal means, but to use the union’s (probably illegal) services, to recover money from schools and agents. Again, in itself, not such a bad thing. But it is very vague about what the costs are, except that there are costs. Warning light 8. EDIT: Since this article was posted, CFTU have removed this from their websites, and deny that it had ever been there.
The website claims an 88% success rate with collecting money. That seems to suggest someone with a lot of guanxi. Foreigners normally don’t have that. It is also highly possible that they use extortion to force the companies to pay – like spamming expat websites with damaging accusations against the schools and agents. 88 is also a lucky number in Chinese superstition. Warning light 9. EDIT: Since this article was posted, CFTU have removed this from their websites, and deny that it had ever been there.
That was enough warning lights. My guess is that this organisation is actually collecting foreigners names as much as anything else. Such names could then be sold on the black market, or forwarded to Chinese authorities. It is also possible that the agents and schools they have targeted are not cooperating with them, which is why CFTU are targetting those agents and schools.
Perhaps I am wrong, and if I am, I welcome dialogue with the teachers union. An offer which was previously ignored in true Chinese style. EDIT: CFTU again rejected dialogue, opting instead for personal attacks and spamming with multiple identities to try to justify themselves.
Whether I am right or wrong, I would urge anybody, especially non-Chinese, to be very wary indeed about registrations with CFTU, or any other organisation in China. It is well known how such information always seems to get into the wrong hands, and is used against people, or to their detriment.
Editor’s Note: Since this article was written, China Daily Mail has been the target of a malicious and defamatory spam campaign, operated by CFTU and many aliases. One of these aliases offered to remove all the defamatory material for a hefty fee, confirming that the operation is extortion.
CFTU also operate sites named China Scam Busters, Clever China Cheaters and others, which have spammed the internet with attacks against China Daily Mail and Craig Hill. They published the following two “articles,” amongst many others:
CFTU have edited all their websites to remove traces of the adverse matters reported in the main story, and have spammed this site with propaganda about themselves. They use obviously fake names, and all say essentially the same thing. Some of these comments can be viewed below. More warning lights.
The registration information on the CFTU websites is as follows:
Clever China Cheaters Ltd.
Wanliu Donglu Bldg. 11 – Suite 505
Haidian District – Zone A2
Beijing 100089 China
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