ZHANG DAO XIN: I’ve been an outgoing person ever since I was a child and I never thought that a dream might tell me something about my life. But something really unbelievable has happened to me, which taught me otherwise. I went to primary school during the time of the Cultural Revolution. Back then; our only pastime was to watch movies. They were all about war and fighting, and these images deeply engraved themselves in my mind. One night when I was still a child, I dreamed about a fight between two groups of people, one group were all dressed in black, the other in white. They were fighting fiercely against each other. I was in one of the groups but I don’t remember which one it was. At one point I was captured by the other group and sentenced to death by shooting. The shooting took place on a stage that had been built in front of my neighbour’s house. The gun was pointed at me, I was scared to death. Then someone counted up to three and the gun went off. I saw blood splashing out of my body. Then I woke up. I felt very, very scared.
    It was dawning outside but it was still dark inside the house, so I stayed in bed hiding under the quilt. I didn’t get up until the sun was well up in the sky. When I told my parents about my dream, they said that if you dream about red blood, it’s actually about the sun. I had already forgotten about this dream but then, in the middle of the 90’s, this dream turned into reality. One day my wife was quarrelling with our neighbour. In front of our neighbour’s house, there is a stage just like the one that I had seen in my dream. When I came home that day, my wife told me about the quarrel and I thought the neighbour was wrong, so I went over to talk to him. They have a big family and in the end we started fighting again. Then the neighbour’s father came up to me. I thought he wanted to stop the fight because he had always done so in the past. But this time, he didn’t. Instead, he took a shovel and started beating me. He is an old man so I started backing away, but he kept beating at me. He hit me on the head and breast; you can still see a scar here on my breast where he hit me. So in order to defend myself I grabbed a small stool and just sort of brandished it at him. I saw the shovel flying away and realized I had used too much force. In fact, the shovel had broken in two parts. The old man fell on the ground and by some very unfortunate coincidence he got a nasty blow on his head, which cut one of his arteries. It was a very serious injury and he was losing a lot of blood. We took him to the hospital immediately but he died on the way there. Then I remembered the dream from my childhood and I couldn’t believe that it had really come true.
    When the old man died, the people around me suggested I should turn myself in to the police, and I did so. That was in 1996 when the new criminal law had already been adopted. The new article on legitimate self-defence was much more reasonable and had a much wider scope of application than the old one. Because of this and my family’s good attitude, the judge put me on probation. I was under constant police supervision but I didn’t have to go to jail.
    I still can’t explain to myself why I dreamed of these events when I was a child. It seems as if the dream had been a prediction. But that doesn’t fit at all into my view about dreams. I think people usually dream such things when they are under stress and don’t sleep well. That’s my opinion about dreams. I don’t know if you believe me that I had this dream. You can’t check my dream, of course, but you can check the case of Jiangbo Farm in the Jinzhou District of the province of Hubei. It’s recorded in the police files.
    When I came to Guangzhou in 2006, I had a salary of only 500 Yuan. I thought that was unfair, so I left the city and went to Shenzhen. There, I found work at a furniture company in Longgang, in the Tongluo District. They paid me 50 Yuan per day, so my salary was about 1.500 Yuan per month. If I worked overtime, it was even more. That was a good time but it didn’t last for long. There were changes in the employment law, and after that the factory adjusted many rules. For example, you could no longer work more than three extra hours per day, one hour less than before, and you couldn’t work overtime on Thursdays and Sundays. So my salary went down by about 300 Yuan per month. Also, the food service at the factory was subcontracted to a service company. The factory paid us 6 Yuan per day for food, but it was really only about 5 Yuan when you subtract the service company’s profit, and that’s really not enough. How are you supposed to live on 5 Yuan a day?
    On the other hand, I also got benefits from the new employment law and this got me interested in the matter, so at one point I started reading books about law. Then I realized that the company I was working for was infringing on workers’ rights. I went to the employer to negotiate with him and to defend our rights. The result was that I got fired. But I believed in the law, so I went to the labour office in Longgang to apply for labour supervision. Then I went to my hometown to wait for the result. The law says that cases must be resolved within 75 working days. When I came back after that time, they told me to keep waiting, the case would be resolved within 105 working days. Since I had nothing else to do in Longgang, I went back to my hometown. Some time later they called me and asked me if I wanted to apply for labour arbitration. I said that I had applied for labour supervision, if I had needed labour arbitration then I would have applied for that, after all it’s my right. I also told them that I would demand money from them if they didn’t keep the deadline. They promised to mediate between me and the company. But when I went back to Longgang in March 2009, there was still no result. I still believe that the legal system in China is well developed; it’s the public officers that are irresponsible.
    Some time ago I was offered a job in a furniture factory. They had promised a salary between 2200 and 2800 Yuan per month, but when I went there to sign the contract, it said that my base salary was only 750 Yuan. I asked the manager what that was supposed to mean. He told me I should just fill out the form as in the sample contract; they would still pay me the higher salary they had offered me. But I think that’s a trick. Many people, and especially company bosses, use grey areas in the law for their own benefit. And we, the workers, are a very vulnerable group in society, so we feel a lot of pressure, both physically and psychologically. I often have nightmares and I don’t sleep well at night.
    I didn’t sign the contract because I thought it was unfair. Now I’m working at another company, but I feel even more pressure now. The name of this company is Minying Factory. The manager promised me a salary of more than 2000 Yuan per month. But when I went to sign the contract, there was a guard who showed me where to put my signature. I had to sign two times, on the first page and at the end of the contract. Then I realized that they were tricking me again. But I needed the money, so I signed the contract.
    When I started working at that company, I found it was terrible. I had to work eight and a half hours during the day shift and then 4 hours during the night shift. I felt very depressed and had nightmares every night. I often dreamed about suing the boss and defending my rights, or about getting hurt or cutting my finger because of a lapse of attention. On my seventh day, I had an accident and really hurt myself. That day, before I started working, I had to check the machine, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how unfair we were being treated at that company. I was distracted and didn’t pay attention to what I was doing, and then some part of the machine slid down and squeezed my finger. I wasn’t really surprised, after all I had even been dreaming about getting hurt. I didn’t want my family to know about the accident because I didn’t want them to worry about me. Then, the night after the accident, I dreamed that my family found out about it and blamed me for not telling them. That doesn’t make sense, but I think it’s because of the pressure I feel now after signing this new contract. I really feel much more pressure than before.