Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XVIII Number 2, February 2010


Thursday, February 25, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. Caltech Y is located off San Pasqual 
between Hill and Holliston, south side. You will 
see two curving walls forming a gate to a path-- 
our building is just beyond. Help us plan future 
actions on Sudan, the 'War on Terror', death 
penalty and more.  

Tuesday, March 9, 7:30 PM.  Letter writing 
meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner of Hill 
and California in Pasadena. This informal 
gathering is a great way for newcomers to get 
acquainted with Amnesty!   

Sunday, March 21, 6:30PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "Factory Girls" by Leslie T. 

 Hi everyone,

I can't believe that it's February already! Time flies 
when you're having fun!
Group 22 members Laura, Lucas, and Stevi went 
to Flintridge Prep, a private school in La Canada, 
to speak to a group of high school students on 
human rights issues. They were invited to 
participate in a Global Awareness Day the 
students put on. Read all about it in this 
newsletter. Lucas and Stevi also met with All 
Saints Church members who are interested in 
forming a coalition to work against the death 
Con carino,

By Joyce Wolf

Group 22 is in the process of adopting Prisoner of 
Conscience Gao Zhisheng, a human-rights lawyer 
who was detained by the Chinese authorities one 
year ago. Suzanne from the Amnesty USA China 
Country Group has now finished putting together 
Gao's case file and it is being reviewed by the 
other members of the China Co-Group. Then 
Gao's case file will go to the AI Individuals at 
Risk program and it will be sent to our group 
after they approve it. We are eager to get started!

February 4 marked the one-year anniversary of 
Gao's arrest. In Group 22's human rights book 
discussion blog, Martha cited several articles 
raising concerns about Gao's status and 
whereabouts. The Washington Post published an 
article by Gao's wife, in which she wrote:
"One year ago today, China kidnapped my 
I don't know where he is. I don't know what is 
being done to him. The only thing I know is why 
he disappeared: My husband, Gao Zhisheng, 
defied Beijing by representing people the 
government finds threatening. As a leading 
human rights lawyer in China, he fought for 
those who had been abused by police, those who 
had their land stolen by the government and 
those who were persecuted for their religious 

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting: 
Sunday, March 21, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard
 In Pasadena

"Factory Girls" 
By Leslie T. Chang

Author Biography

Leslie T. Chang lived in China for a decade as a 
correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, 
specializing in stories that explored how 
socioeconomic change is transforming institutions 
and individuals. She has also written for National 
Geographic. Factory Girls is her first book.
A graduate of Harvard University with a degree 
in American History and Literature, Chang has 
also worked as a journalist in the Czech Republic, 
Hong Kong, and Taiwan. She was raised outside 
New York City by immigrant parents who forced 
her to attend Saturday-morning Chinese school, 
for which she is now grateful.
She is married to Peter Hessler, who also writes 
about China. She lives in Colorado.

Book Review

From the New York Times by Patrick Radden 
Keefe. Published: November 7, 2008 
Toward the end of "Factory Girls," her 
engrossing account of the lives of young migrant 
workers in southern China, Leslie Chang describes 
receiving a gift. Min, a young woman who works 
at a handbag plant, presents Chang with an 
authentic Coach purse plucked fresh from the 
assembly line. It emerges that Min's dormitory-
style bedroom is stuffed with high-end 
leatherwear. When the author proposes giving one 
of the handbags to the mother of Min's boyfriend, 
Min scoffs. "His mother lives on a farm," she 
says. "What's she going to do with a handbag?" 
 The emergence of China's titanic 
manufacturing base has been chronicled in 
numerous books and articles in recent years, but 
Chang has elected to focus not on the broader 
market forces at play but on the individuals, most 
of them women, who leave their villages and seek 
their fortunes on the front lines of this economy. 

Since the 1970s, China has witnessed the 
largest migration in human history, Chang 
observes, "three times the number of people who 
emigrated to America from Europe over a 
century." There are 130 million migrant workers in 
China today. A few decades ago, a rural peasant 
could expect to live and die on the same plot of 
land his family had farmed for generations. But 
the country's explosive economic growth has 
allowed the young and adventurous to trade the 
stifling predictability of village life for the 
excitement, opportunity and risk of the factory 
A former China correspondent for The Wall 
Street Journal, Chang focuses on one boomtown in 
particular, Dongguan, a frenetic jumble of 
megafactories in Guangdong Province. The city 
produces garments of every description and 30 
percent of the world's computer disk drives. One-
third of all the shoes on the planet are produced 
in the province, and Chang spends time in a 
factory that manufactures Nike, Reebok and other 
brands. It has 70,000 employees, most of them 
women, and boasts its own movie theater, 
hospital and fire department. 
Dongguan is "a perverse expression of China 
at its most extreme," Chang suggests; it is 
polluted, chaotic and corrupt, but jostling also 
with a generation of _strivers who are unashamed 
of their ambition and astonishingly indifferent to 
risk. New arrivals from the countryside can 
double or triple their income in a couple of weeks 
by taking a computer class or learning a little 
English. Switching jobs becomes a form of self-
reinvention, and starting a new business is as 
easy as purchasing a new business card. 
To Chang, the factory girls seem to live in "a 
perpetual present." They have forsaken the 
Confucian bedrock of traditional Chinese culture 
for an improvised existence in which history and 
filial loyalty have been replaced by rapid upward 
mobility, dogged individualism and an obsessive 
pursuit of a more prosperous future. After 
revealing that her driver's license was purchased 
on the black market, one woman seems to voice 
the general ethos of the town when she says to 
Chang, of her abilities behind the wheel, "I know 
how to drive forward." 
With new job opportunities forever appearing 
and huge personnel turnover in any given factory, 
friendships are difficult to make and to maintain, 
and Chang details the loneliness and isolation of 
the migrant workers. Dongguan's laborers 
assemble cellphones, but they purchase them as 
well, and with their speed-dial archives of 
acquaintances, the phones become a sort of 
lifeline, the only way to keep track of the 
breakneck comings and goings of friends. If a 
worker's cellphone is stolen, as they often are, 
friends, boyfriends and mentors may be lost to 
her forever. "The easiest thing in the world," 
Chang remarks more than once, "was to lose 
touch with someone." 
People living their lives "on fast-_forward" in 
this manner would seem to resist any kind of 
comprehensive portraiture by a reporter. But 
Chang perseveres, hanging around the factories, 
purchasing cellphones for some of the women she 
meets so that she can keep track of them, and 
eventually renting an apartment in Dongguan. 
While she relates the stories of numerous different 
women, she becomes closest with Min, who gave 
her the purse, and with Chunming, who left her 
home in Hunan Province in 1992 and has cycled 
through countless careers and relationships in the 
years since. (It is Chunming who can only drive 
Chang's extraordinary reportorial feat is the 
intimacy with which she presents the stories of 
these two women. Min and Chunming lack the 
reserve of some of their colleagues. They share 
their diary entries and their text messages, their 
romantic entanglements and their sometimes 
strained relationships with the families they left 
behind. The result is an exceptionally vivid and 
compassionate depiction of the day-to-day 
dramas, and the fears and aspirations, of the real 
people who are powering China's economic boom. 
BY delving so deeply into the lives of her 
subjects, Chang succeeds in exploring the degree 
to which China's factory girls are exploited --
working grueling hours in sometimes poor 
conditions for meager wages with little job 
security -- without allowing the book to 
degenerate into a diatribe. There is never any 
doubt that the factory owners in Hong Kong and 
Taiwan -- and the consumers in American 
shopping malls -- have the better end of the 
bargain. But for all the dislocation, isolation and 
vulnerability they experience, Chang makes clear 
that for the factory girls life in Dongguan is an 
adventure, and an affirmation of the sort of 
individualism that village life would never allow. 
"If it was an ugly world," Chang concludes, 
"at least it was their own."
Patrick Radden Keefe is a fellow at the 
Century Foundation. His book "The Snakehead," 
about the Chinese human smuggler Sister Ping, 
will be published next year.


A Meeting at All Saints Church

Sunday, February 14, 2010, Lucas and I went 
to All Saints Episcopal Church to meet with 
church and community members concerned with 
the death penalty.  We met James Clark, a former 
coordinator of Georgians for Alternatives to the 
Death Penalty and the new professional organizer 
devoted solely to death penalty issues in 
California for the ACLU in Southern California.  
James works with the Los Angeles County 
Coalition for Death Penalty Alternatives 
coalition meets the second Wednesday of each 
month (next meeting is March 10) from 6-8 pm at 
the ACLU office downtown, at 1313 W. Eighth 
St., Los Angeles, CA 90017.  
We learned that three California counties 
create the bulk of the death penalty sentences and 
that LA County leads the pack. (FYI: according 
the Amnesty International in California by having 
the death penalty as an option, our system costs 
$137 million a year; without it, we'd part with 
11.5 million of our tax dollars.)  LACCDPA is 
collecting Resolutions to End Death Sentencing in 
LA County from various organizations.  Members 
will present these to District Attorney of LA 
County Steve Cooley. We'll discuss the possibility 
of drafting a resolution at our next meeting.  
Additionally, LACCDPA is collecting signatures 
on a Petition to Stop Pursuing the Death Penalty, 
also to be delivered to the DA Cooley.  Amnesty 
members are down with petitions so petitions will 
be available at book group, our monthly meeting 
and letter writing.

A Visit to Flintridge Prep

Sarah Randolph, a senior at Flintridge Prep, 
organized a Global Awareness Assembly at the 
school on February 18, 2010.  She invited AI 
Group 22 to present so Laura, Lucas and I 
pitched the virtues of Amnesty International to 
two classes of high school kids.  After two short 
videos that showed the power of letter writing, 
Lucas gave an overview of the campaigns AI 
presently has.  Aung San Suu Kyi's photo is 
shown for Prisoners of Conscience.  Lucas used 
this opportunity to give a little background into 
her case.  As Laura said, one of the students said 
he had already heard about the president of 
Burma being under house arrest.  Hooray right 
Sarah requested some AI involvement in South 
America.  Lucas explained the research AI did 
into a case where the Peruvian authorities may 
have caused the deaths of those killed during 
violence at a road blockade led by Amazon 
Indigenous peoples in June, 2009.  He brought a 
section of an AI report on the incident for the kids 
to see.  Laura combined her recent trip to China 
with the case of Shi Tao to discuss internet 
censorship and what it has cost Shi Tao.  She 
mentioned that most of the people she spoke with 
in China thought the censorship was acceptable. I 
talked about the death penalty, pending 
executions, and the recent execution and 
exoneration. The kids listened attentively to our 
presentations and asked thoughtful questions 
during the Q&A.
Lucas and I were able to stay for lunch with 
the other presenters.  Our tablemates represented 
a wide array of countries and causes.  One man 
told the kids about Israel and Palestine, another 
about middle-class children in Chad and 
Morocco, and still another about Tibetan 
independence.  The woman who had lunch with 
us told them about her work with refugees who 
have been tortured and are seeking asylum.  
Group 22's friend, Hector Aristizabal, works with 
her group.  Just from our little lunch group I could 
tell Sarah gave her classmates a wider view of our 
world and its challenges with her Global 
Awareness Assembly.

Some Death Penalty News


Martin Grossman, 45, was executed in Florida 
on Monday, February 16, 2010.  Amnesty 
International along with the Vatican and Jewish 
groups had asked for clemency for him because of 
his below-average IQ, his history of epilepsy and 
the remorse he had shown.  Martin's execution is 
the 68th in Florida since 1976 when the death 
penalty was reintroduced. 

As of this writing, the next scheduled 
execution is Melbert Ray Ford, Jr. in Georgia on 
February 23, 2010.  March is booked with eight 
executions scheduled beginning with Michael 
Sigala in Texas on the second and Lawrence 
Reynolds in Ohio on the ninth. (for list through 
September 15, 2010, go to


Gregory Flynt Taylor, 47, was exonerated in 
North Carolina Wednesday, February 17, 2010.  
He spent 17 years on death row and is the first 
convicted felon in U.S. history to be exonerated 
by a state-mandated innocence commission.  

Death Penalty Awareness Week

Death Penalty Awareness Week is February 
26 to March 7.  AI is partnered with Witness to 
Innocence (, 
an organization that supports and provides 
speaking opportunities for those who have been 
exonerated from death row because of their 
innocence.  At the WTI website, you can see the 
faces of people who are now freed from death 
row and can read their stories.  These folks are 
well worth the visit.
Recently as I left the office of the one doctor I 
don't mind seeing, she said to me, "Please keep 
fighting for us."  So fellow activists, let's keep 


Postcards to China for Shi Tao  16
Postcards for other Amnesty campaigns  4
UA's  13
Death Penalty  2
Total  35

To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code 5-62
Pasadena, CA 91125