— On the day of IBM Centennial a microblogger uploaded a photo showing Yuan’s mother being abducted and gave the van serial number
July 6 Lou Chi report: Yuan Yipeng often calls himself “a defeated pile of trash”. He has been involved in an employment dispute with IBM for 4 years with no resolution in sight, although he had many sympathizers. Apart from seeking treatment for his own depression, Yuan has a new task in hand, that is, to get justice for his mother who had been abducted in a surprise attack illegally by IBM on the day of its centennial.
On 16 June, Yuan Yipeng made a suicide bid by jumping into Huangpu River after taking some sleeping pills. He was later rescued. It has been 20 days since then, and his lung infection has almost cleared up. However, as he told the journalists, the physical ordeal was not the most painful. He had been feeling down in the past few days because he received verbal attacks over his private life which went on for three days by hostile internet users who he believes were paid to do so by “them”(i.e. IBM). He had been attacked in a similar way three years ago.
On the day of IBM’s centennial, the same day he chose to commit suicide, his mother was forcefully taken away in a van from her usual spot of protesting outside IBM’s Huan Yu Building. The people who did this were from Wuhan, led by IBM’s securities. She was held for 8 hours before being released when the ceremony was over. Yuan pointed out that IBM’s securities are permanent staff as part of the HR team. They are not workers hired on temporary basis.
In order to learn more about the incident, the reporter made several phone calls to an IBM’s spokesman. Unfortunately he refused to answer the phone. Zhao Nan, a lawyer from Beijing Jun He Law Firm who represents IBM on Yuan’s case, also refused to comment. According to another Lawyer named Yan from Beijing An Tian Law Firm, if what Yuan said was true, and considering the timing, possible motives, and the length of time Yuan’s mother was held for, the detention was indeed illegal though it was not quite a criminal offence as the time length was shorter than 24 hours.
Some netizens commented that what Yuan is up against is not the IBM with a hundred years glorious history or a great enterprise full of wisdom, but an institution which is cold, arrogant and has no respect to human life.
An Arbitration Ruling Ignored by IBM
— When IBM ignored the ruling of arbitration and pressurized Yuan for an alternative arrangement, i.e. working from home, Yuan wrote to the Chairman of IBM pleading for help.
Back in June 2006, Yuan Yipeng was employed as a research engineer having graduated from Wuhan University. In March 2007 Yuan received a diagnosis of depression. In August 2007, an assessment report by Shanghai Mental Health Institute suggested that Yuan return to work. At this point IBM asked Yuan to leave voluntarily. Yuan refused.
Subsequently, IBM cut Yuan’s salary with no notification while secretly and forcefully put him in sick leave state. Yuan got a relapse of depression, and became worse and worse. On 11 January 2008, after a trapped meeting with IBM management, he swallowed 40 tablets of clonazepam to take his own life for the first time. He was rescued.
On 27 February 2008, IBM informed him in a letter that his employment had been terminated. Yuan Yipeng decided to take legal action. On 7 March, Shanghai Pudong Employment Dispute Arbitration Court accepted the case. On 30 May, the case had its first hearing. On 18 June 2008, the Court ruled that the employment contract Yuan had with IBM remain effective.
One would assume that this should bring the matter to a happy ending. Unfortunately, IBM refused to accept the ruling. Instead, it made its own arrangement for Yuan Yipeng to work from home in Wuhan on an online gaming project, the reason being that the department he previously belonged to no longer existed. Yet Yuan wanted to go back to his original post because his colleagues and the project he had been working on were still there. But IBM rejected his proposal.
Family of Three in Protest
From the end of 2008 to 2009, after all the efforts failed, Yuan Yipeng suffered severe memory loss for a year due to an electric shock treatment and had to be cared for by his family. Things took a hopeful turn when Sukkyu Kim, IBM’s Human Resources Director who is Korean by origin, intervened. Arrangement was made for Yuan to work on a trial basis for 3 months. Should his performance be satisfactory, the company would reinstate him. Unfortunately Sukkyn left his position before the end of the trial. As a result, IBM abandoned its dialogue with Yuan. Once again Yuan’s depression got worse.
Yuan’s parents started to station themselves outside IBM buildings in Beijing, petitioning for a face to face meeting with the management of the company. This has been going on for 9 months now.
Yuan Yipeng showed us a written account of what happened to his mother. It seems that his mother was dragged into an unmarked van from the entrance of Huan Yu Building at 11 o’clock on 16 June. She was taken to a town called Dong Bei Wang and was kept in a small courtyard of an internet café until 7 o’clock in the evening. While she was there, lawyers representing IBM went in.
On the same day Yuan Yipeng took some sleeping pills and jumped into a river from Shanghai Yang Jia Du dock to kill himself. He was rescued by police and survived. In his microblog he wrote these words on that day, “I am on my way. I am a nobody. I can not understand the feeling that the IBM China Chairman may have had when he walked past my mother who was kneeling down on the ground, got into his car and sped off. ”
One Company, Two Attitudes
Interestingly, despite the fact that the management of IBM takes a hard line on the matter, some of its employees are rather sympathetic towards Yuan family. Journalist and producer for CCTV program “News 1+1” Liu wrote in her microblog, “Yuan’s parents are easy going and appreciative. During the 9 months when they were protesting outside IBM buildings, some migrant workers donated blankets to keep them warm. Some IBM employees would come to chat to them from time to time. The only thing missing is a sincere communication from the senior management of IBM.”
An IBM employee stated in his microblog, “The theme of the Centennial was to repay the society. Therefore, there was no lavish celebration. I am an employee, so I know. But if IBM was involved in this incident as you described, then no doubt it would be viewed as a big scandal in a civilized society. I believe that IBM would pay a huge price for it.”
Another IBM employee who doesn’t want to be named told the reporter that to take Yuan’s mother away was a temporary measure that has to be taken, as there were many senior managers visiting the site on that day. But he acknowledged that should IBM accepted the 2008 ruling and fulfilled its obligation, Yuan may have been in a better shape by now, and all the trouble could have been avoided.
According to volunteers, Yuan’s parents had made a request to Dong Bei Wang police station to file a lawsuit regarding the illegal detention. But the police dismissed the request, stating that “an unlawful detention would only be regarded as a criminal offense if it lasted more than 24 hours”. Nonetheless, the police promised to report the incident to the senior management so that some help could be made available to them to resolve the issue.