HRIC and CLB Call for Immediate Release of Yao Fuxin

November 25, 2002

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has joined with Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB) in calling for the immediate release of labor activist Yao Fuxin after local testimony refutes Chinese officials’ claims that Yao engaged in violent public demonstrations.

Yao Fuxin was arrested in March this year after leading major labor protests in relation to the closure in October 2001 of the Liaoyang City Ferroalloy Factory in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

HRIC and CLB both submitted petitions on Yao’s behalf to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which on July 11 requested a response from the Chinese government. The Chinese government recently responded with its reasons for Yao’s arrest.

At the request of the Working Group, which is meeting this week in Geneva, HRIC is submitting comments and additional information demonstrating that the government’s contentions are not supported by the facts.

In its official reply, the Chinese government states that Yao Fuxin was arrested and detained because he and other persons took advantage of worker discontent to “plan, instigate and carry out a number of destructive activities.” The Chinese government claimed that Yao and others “burst into the local government building, throwing the offices into turmoil, smashing public vehicles, blocking traffic and disrupting public order.” The Chinese government further claimed that since Yao’s detention, “all his rights and interests have been fully protected, his state of health remains good and he has not been subjected to any form of torture.”

However, inquiries by HRIC and CLB among local officials and member of the public in Liaoning present an entirely different picture.

-- Yao’s wife, Guo Xiujing, says that far from inciting violence or disrupting public transport, Yao and the other labor leaders on several occasions dissuaded workers from carrying out plans to block railway lines. Regarding the allegation of “bursting into a local government building,” Guo says that on March 20, three days after Yao was secretly arrested, representatives of the Ferroalloy workers presenting a petition at the municipal government offices ran into the building during a sudden rainstorm. That was the only time that anyone “burst into a local government building,” and it occurred after Yao had already been arrested.

-- Guo Xiujing’s claims are supported by various officials and members of the public in Liaoyang, who all agree that Yao Fuxin never engaged in the activities of which the Chinese government accuses him. For example, officials of the Liaoyang Municipal Government say workers never engaged in any violent activity during their protests. And the vice-chairman of the Liaoyang Federation of Trade Unions says the most “extreme” activity that Yao had engaged in was to petition the government and express his views. “He conducted no violent or extreme activity,” the union official says. Regarding the allegation that Yao and other protestors “smashed public vehicles,” this union official says, “That’s a complete fabrication.”

-- When inquiries were made among other officials of the Liaoyang Municipal Government, Liaoyang Public Security Bureau, and Liaoyang Procuratorate, although these officials declined to provide details of the circumstances of the worker protests, not one accused the protestors of any violent activity. Workers and family members likewise categorically denied any damage to public property or other violent activity by Yao and the others. The Procuratorate’s investigation concluded that Yao and the other protestors had engaged in nothing more serious than “illegally organizing a demonstration.”

The only conclusion to be drawn from these numerous testimonials from a wide range of official and private sources is that the Chinese government’s allegations against Yao are completely baseless.

-- The Chinese government’s claims regarding Yao’s health are likewise inconsistent with reality. Yao’s wife Guo Xiujing says that Yao is currently being detained at the Shenyang Prison Infirmary. When Guo last visited Yao on October 9, she found Yao’s left hand incapacitated by such a serious tremor that he was unable to wash his clothes or perform other simple tasks. Yao’s family has requested that he be released on bail for health reasons, but their application has been denied. In the 8 months that Yao has been detained following his secret arrest, he has not been allowed his most basic human right to consult a lawyer. The circumstances of Yao’s detention directly contradict the Chinese government’s claims that “all his rights and interests have been fully protected, and his state of health remains good.”

-- Chinese officials have continued to harass other protestors and their families since Yao’s arrest. Around the time of the 16th Party Congress, from November 7 to 18, the Liaoyang Public Security Bureau dispatched at least 100 police officers to maintain a 24-hour watch on a dozen activist workers. When withdrawing on the 18th, a police officer instructed Guo Xiujing not to telephone outsiders, invite workers to her home, or gather with workers elsewhere under threat of prosecution.

-- In its reply to the Working Group, the Chinese government has also claimed that in accordance with demands from the Ferroalloy workers the Liaoyang city government conducted a “thorough and detailed investigation into the issues raised by the employees,” including allegations of corruption within the factory’s management, and demands for relocation subsidies and unemployment compensation. But inquiries among the workers indicate that the government has up to now compensated only 75% of their unpaid earnings, has paid them only a portion of the medical expenses and other compensation, and has not yet paid out any of their unemployment benefits. Although Yao himself was not a Ferroalloy employee, his wife was, and Yao as a family member was chosen by the Ferroalloy workers to lead protests to press for the workers’ legitimate demands. There is no law forbidding Yao to engage in these activities.

HRIC and CLB deplore the groundless claims and accusations made by the Chinese government in its reply to the UN Working Group regarding Yao. The two organizations plan to compile all of the information they have gathered in the course of their own inquiries and will present it to the UN Working Group with a request for further inquiry into Yao’s case.

In addition, HRIC and CLB will present to the UN Working Group the facts that Yao’s family were not informed of his detention until four days after his arrest, that he has been denied proper medical attention, and that he has been denied his right to consult a lawyer. CLB further points out that the Liaoyang government’s secret long-term detention of Yao contravenes the Right to Collective Bargaining enshrined by the International Labor Organization, of which China is a member.

HRIC and CLB call for the Chinese government to demonstrate that it recognizes the legitimate basic rights of workers by immediately releasing Yao Fuxin.

For more information, contact:

Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074

Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495

For contact at CLB:

Han Dongfang (852) 2780 2187

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