China Labour Action Express No. 27 (2003-05-02)

1/ On the Enactment of Article 23 Legislation in Hong Kong

Press Release : 3 May 2003

Today, on 3 May, China Labour Bulletin’s Director, Han Dongfang will present CLB’s submission on the proposed legislation on Article 23 to the Bills Committee on National Security.

The implementation of legislation on Article 23 of the Basic law is probably the most important and far reaching legislative decision in Hong Kong since 1997 and as such, any legislation passed on Article 23 must protect and promote the fundamental human rights of Hong Kong citizens.

However, CLB believes that in its rush to legislate, the government has ignored widespread calls for extensive revision to its proposals and the current proposals still go far beyond what is needed to implement Article 23. Indeed, as the proposed legislation stands, they are likely to increase restrictions upon the basic human rights of Hong Kong citizens and in the light of the poor definition of several of the proposed offences, CLB is appalled at the potential for abuse of the proposed legislation.

“The implementation of the proposed legislation will further undermine Hong Kong’s status as a “World City” and will potentially destabilize Hong Kong society; criminalize the legitimate actions of its independent civil society; undermine Hong Kong’s independent media and further underscore the movement of Hong Kong away from the international community of states which uphold and promote internationally recognized human rights,” said Han Dongfang yesterday. “Once more, we urge the government to review the proposals and bring them in line with international standards.”

Although CLB welcomes some of the revisions made to proposals in the Consultation Paper, we remain extremely worried that the proposed legislation still defines all four offences of treason, sedition, subversion and secession in vague terms and as such all four offences are open to abuse - in much the same way that existing legislation is used in mainland China. CLB urges the government to ensure that the Bill clearly excludes all peaceful demonstrations and other legitimate expressions of public opinion from the offences of treason, secession and subversion. In addition CLB urges the government to remove the archaic and abusive offence of sedition from the proposals.

CLB also remains strongly opposed to the proposed linking of proscribed organizations on the mainland to organizations in Hong Kong – a proposal that goes far beyond the terms of Article 23 and one which allows for PRC concepts of national security to have precedence in the HK SAR. This has far reaching implications and further erodes the sovereignty of the HK SAR. Given the widespread restrictions on basic human rights on the Chinese mainland we are deeply concerned that independent groups, such as CLB itself, researching and campaigning on human rights abuses in the mainland could be criminalized by the proposals. Moreover, we believe that if this legislation is not revised, the future of “One Country-Two systems” appears bleak.

CLB also urges the government to revise the proposed provisions relating to the trial and appeal procedures for proscribed societies, which effectively strip Hong Kong citizens of the fundamental right to a fair trial contrary to internationally recognized standards and indeed contrary to Article 35 of the basic law, which guarantees the right to adequate legal defense. These proposals allow for trials in-camera and for appeals without the presence of the appellant or his or her legal representative and without the appellant being given full particulars of the reasons for the proscription - directly contrary to international standards on fair trials.

We believe that there is no necessity for this legislation to be pushed through by July 2003 and ask that the Government revises the proposed legislation in order to conform to international and national standards on human rights and to take into account widespread criticism of the proposed legislation.

“We reiterate our belief that unless the proposed legislation is revised, the Bill, as it stands, will extensively reduce the ability of Hong Kong citizens to exercise their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and association”.

Click here for the full text of our submission

2/ Suizhou Textile Group Protests – four workers detained

(Poem distributed during the mass protests at the Tieshu Factory in March)

“ Power has become the plaything of officials,
Though we have the truth all on our side.
When our very subsistence goes unprotected,
What fear have we of donning prison shackles?

In a recent intensification of repression against protesting retired workers from the Tieshu Textile Factory Group in Suizhou, CLB has learned that four retired workers from the factory remain in detention.

Five workers were detained on 23 April; two female workers who have since been released and three others; two of whom, Gong Qingshan, a 72 year old retiree and Cui Dezhi, a 52 year old retiree, both remain in detention. A further two people were detained on 28 April after some 600 workers marched to the offices of the Suizhou City Government to call for the release of Gong Qingshan and Cui Dezhi.

The retired workers have been protesting about the loss of their pensions and about extensive corruption at the factory since 2 January 2003. The Tieshu Textile Factory Group reportedly employees about 7,000 people and has over 3,000 retired workers. One of the retired workers’ principal complaints is that they have not been paid any pension funds from the factory despite an earlier agreement that all retired workers would receive about half their pension from government funds and the remaining one third or half from factory pension funds. Workers are also calling on the government to investigate their allegations of corruption by officials at the factory which, they believe, has directly led to its imminent bankruptcy and the subsequent non-payment of pensions and medical benefits.

On January 2, approximately 1000 retired workers staged a protest to seek an investigation into the cutting off of their retirement subsidies and the upcoming bankruptcy of the enterprise brought about, they argue, by the corruption of the enterprises managers and local city officials. Tragically, one worker aged 54, died after suffering a stroke during the protest.

Directly after the protests, the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) declared the workers actions to be “illegal” and a “serious disruption of public order. On January 4th the PSB posted a public notice urging the leaders of the protest to turn themselves in and asking their families and fellow workers to turn them in as well. In one interview with CLB, a retired worker said that both uniformed and plain-clothes police have been patrolling the factory’s housing since the protest, knocking on doors and looking for the protest leaders.

According to interviews, the factory union branch of the ACFTU was working with the factory management and the government. One worker informed CLB that many workers had “ more trust in the central government than [we] do in the union”. According to the Administrative Office of the Tieshu Textile Group, the union was part of a working group, working with the management to stop the workers protest.

On 12 March, having received no response to their demands from the government, the retired workers once again began to protest and groups of retired workers from the Tieshu Textile Group managed to block the entrance to the factory, stopping production. From 12 March onwards, every day some 20 to 30 retired workers took turns sitting outside the factory entrance blocking its access. According to an eyewitness contacted by CLB, at the peak of the picketing, over 300 workers were gathered outside the factory entrance.

Despite their protests, local officials continued to ignore their demands for dialogue and instead resorted to repressive tactics and the detention of five of the workers.

On 28 April, to protest at the detentions, some 600 retired workers gathered outside the Suizhou Municipal Government Offices. Some 300 of them then marched from the government offices to the train station and walked along the railroad overpass, attempting to reach the railway connecting Wuhan and Xiangfan to carry out a sit-in demonstration. One of the demonstrators, a retired worker, told China Labour Bulletin that the police immediately arrested two demonstrators, one of whom was trying to distribute CLB’s telephone number to other workers, but he was captured by the plainclothes police after distributing the contact number to one other worker.

Another witness confirmed to CLB that when the 300 retired workers passed the railroad overpass, about 20 armed policemen and 10 policemen stopped them. The police separated the demonstrators and made them disperse.

CLB supports the Tieshu Textile Group's 2000 retired employees’ protests against corruption and their attempts to safeguard their rights and urges the Chinese authorities to immediately release all four workers who were detained solely for their involvement in peaceful and legitimate demonstrations.

CLB also calls upon the Suizhou Municipal Government to end their harassment and intimidation of the Suizhou workers and to listen to their legitimate demands and calls for dialogue.

For more details on these protests please see our website

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