ICFTU appeals for the release of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang

Mr. Hu Jintao,
President of the People’s Republic of China
c/o Ministry of Justice,
1 Huajiadijia, Chaoyangqu, Beijingshi
People’s Republic of China

By fax: 86-10-64729863

By e-mail: minister@legalinfo.gov.cn
AS/TUR 12 May 2003

Mr. President,

On behalf of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which represents 158 million unionised workers through its 231 national affiliated union centres in 150 countries and territories, including China’s Hong Kong SAR, I express our movement’s deepest concern at the harsh prison sentences handed down to Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, workers’ representatives in the four-year campaign against corruption and bankruptcy at the Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Factory. I am particularly concerned that, besides having been denied access to their lawyers during their detention, justice was further denied in that the sentences were handed down in the absence of Xiao’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, who was held up in SARS-related quarantine by the authorities.

I also understand that, during the hearing, Xiao Yunliang appeared almost totally blind and was unable to recognise close family members. This appears directly related to consistent reports that Xiao became increasingly ill during his detention and that he was repeatedly denied appropriate medical care. Both Xiao and Yao were also regularly denied visits from their relatives.

As for the sentencing hearing itself, only the daughters of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, respectively Yao Dan and Xiao Yu, and two of Yao’s and Xiao’s fellow workers were reportedly allowed to attend the court session, which took place at the detention centre where the two men had been held for over a year. It has been reported that some 300 workers also went to the centre to show support for Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, thus braving the presence of some 300 Public Security Bureau officials who surrounded the detention centre. Later, many colleagues of the accused went to the Yao and Xiao family homes to show their continuous support. Considering the risks involved, this show of solidarity in itself demonstrates that Liaoyang workers unequivocally stand behind their democratically designated leaders and that the prosecution’s arguments constitute nothing more than fabrication, designed to manipulate both Chinese and international public opinion.

The authorities’ prejudice against Xiao and Yao was further illustrated immediately after the hearing, when the prisoners’ daughters, Yao Dan and Xiao Yu, were both driven away in separate police cars. Xiao Yunliang’s wife, Su Anhua, tried to stop the car taking her daughter away but was beaten to the ground by police. She lost consciousness and was taken to hospital. She was later taken home by her elder daughter after the hospital asked for money for the medical treatment. Both Xiao Yu and Yao Dan were subsequently released. The ICFTU has reason to believe that their unwarranted abduction was motivated by police concerns that they might talk to their fathers’ colleagues or to the press.

Earlier, on 8 January 2003, the ICFTU had written to your predecessor, Mr Zhang Zhemin, seeking his good offices for the charges to be dropped and for those detained to be released, as the charges of subversion levied against Yao and Xiao were blatantly unsubstantiated and unwarranted. In fact, by publicly denying that Yao and Xiao had ever resorted to acts of violence during the Spring 2002 protests in Liaoyang, local authorities and ACFTU officials had implicitly confirmed that the Ferro-Alloy workers were merely exercising their rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining, as guaranteed by the International Labour Organisation’s Conventions No. 87 and 98. As a member of the ILO, China must live up to these international obligations and guarantee its workers these established rights. In fact, the March 2003 meeting of the ILO Governing Body had called upon your government to release all Liaoyang workers and to drop any outstanding charges against them.

Mr President, I urge you to intervene in this case by ordering the release of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang. Failing that, the reputation of the Chinese authorities will be further tarnished by this action of your government, which will be highlighted by the international trade union movement in its campaign to impress on your government the need to show greater respect for the fundamental rights of workers.

Yours sincerely,
Guy Ryder
General Secretary

Cc: Mr Wang Zhaoguo, Chairman, All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU)
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