July 5, 1999
Two labour activists and their advisor from the city of Tianshui in Gansu
province have been sentenced to prison terms by the Tianshui People's
Intermediate Court after being charged with "subverting state power".
Yue Tianxiang was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment
Guo Xinmin was sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment
Wang Fengshan was sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment
Guo Xinmin and Yue Tianxiang were both drivers at the state-owned Tianshui
City Transport Company. In 1995 they were laid off despite being owed
three months back pay. When the company refused to negotiate a settlement
regarding wage arrears and a legal-entitled living allowance, the two
workers decided to take their case to the Tianshui Labour Disputes Arbitration
Committee (LDAC). The LDAC's decision stipulated that the company should
find new positions for the two as soon as possible, but the manager refused
to abide by the decision.
After realising that many fellow workers faced the same treatment they
set up a journal called China Workers Monitor and used the inaugural
issue to uncover corruption at their former company.
Yue and Guo also wrote an open letter to President Jiang Zemin asking
for official intervention from Beijing. After receiving no answer, they
sent the same letter to international news agencies hoping to bring more
pressure to bear on the authorities in Tianshui. Within a week of releasing
the letter, the two had been picked up by the police and charged with
The case of the above three activists has been included in an official
complaint by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unionists (ICFTU)
to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of which China is a member.
The complaint is addressed to the ILO's Committee for Freedom of Association.
Indeed this latest case is yet more evidence of the Chinese government's
deliberate violation of it's own laws and Constitution under which Chinese
citizens are guaranteed the right to freedom of the press and of association.
Chief Editor, CLB