On August 21, 2002, the International Confederation of Trade Unions (ICFTU) formally filed a complaint with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) condemning the detention of Di Tiangui. The Confederation also expressed indignation at the inhumane treatment inflicted on Di.
According to information from New York-based China Labor Watch, 57-year-old Di Tiangui, former state worker at Taiyuan City Dazhong Machinery Factory in Shanxi Province, was detained on June 1 suspected of setting up an illegal organisation. The alleged illegal organisation refers to a national federation of retired state workers, which Di attempted to set up. His appeal was made known earlier this year when he co-authored a declaration calling for the establishment of the federation representing 30 million retired state workers.
Dis action came after seeing that petitions along official channels had not brought them the benefits they were entitled to, namely pensions. At the same time, the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has failed to protect the rights and livelihood of its members. Retired workers have taken things to their own hands. In various provinces, workers take to the streets to fight for pension benefits and reasonable severance plans. Recent protests by retired workers in Baotou City in Inner Mongolia (July 2002), and the mass workers' protests in Liaoyang and Daqing starting this March, point to the gravity of the problem, and the failure of the current system to tackle it.
However, Di Tianguis attempt, outside the structure of ACFTU, obviously went beyond the official limit of workers organising. On July 5, Di was formally arrested on charges of incitement to subvert state power, a common charge against independent workers organising.
Di is currently held in a detention centre in Taiyuan, capital city of Shanxi Province. His health conditions have raised serious concerns. He is reportedly suffering from high blood pressure and vasculitis, and has been shackled in a way making it impossible for him to stand upright. "What I'm most worried about is that he will not be able to stand the physical strain," Di's wife said in a letter published by China Labor Watch.
The ICFTU considers the detention of Di Tiangui, and any other independent trade unionist or labour activists as unacceptable under ILO principles, and judges that the treatment inflicted on our colleague Mr Di is brutal, painful and completely inappropriate.
Di is married with two children.
(Sources: SCMP, 12/8/02, Amnesty International, China Labor Watch, ICFTU)