A Chinese labour rights NGO targeted in a government crackdown last year has fought back by suing state news agency Xinhua for defamation.

Nanfeiyan Social Works Service Centre in Foshan, Guangdong submitted a civil case against Xinhua and journalist Zhou Wei to a local court on Monday, according to Radio Free Asia.

He Xiaobo of Nanfeiyan was arrested in the crackdown. Photo: Nanfeiyan

Nanfeiyan, or literally “south flying geese”, is an NGO focusing on helping migrant workers. It was one of four labour rights NGOs to be affected in a crackdown in December which saw over a dozen people taken away by police. At least four have since been charged.

Xinhua published a report by journalist Zhou Wei after the police raid entitled “Behind the glory of labour rights stars.” The article accused the four Guangdong NGOs of “receiving funds from overseas organisations”, “interfering in labour rights disputes”, “disturbing social order” and “trampling on workers’ rights.”

In a statement, Nanfeiyan said the Xinhua report “seriously goes against the facts.” The group accused Xinhua of “smearing” it and other NGOs, causing “serious damage” to its public image and reputation. Neither Zhou nor Xinhua have responded to the accusations.

Nanfeiyan’s website is down.

The Xinhua report focused on labour rights activist Zeng Feiyang, who was in charge of the Panyu Migrant Workers Centre in Guangzhou. The report said Zeng “embezzled funds” and “maintained sexual relationship[s] with at least eight females.”

Zeng and two others have been charged with “disturbing social order” while Nanfeiyan’s He Xiaobo was charged with embezzlement.

According to Radio Free Asia, operations at Nanfeiyan remain normal, though the group’s website appears to have access issues.

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.