ICFTU's Complaint with ILO on the Detention of Di Tiangui

Mr Juan Somavia
Director General
International Labour Office
Route des Morillons
CH 1211 Geneva

By telefax

19 August 2002

Dear Mr Director General,

Freedom of Association: China (PRC) – Case No. 2189

On behalf of the ICFTU, I am writing to bring further information about violations of the principles of freedom of association, the right to organise and the right to collective bargaining in the People’s Republic of China.

According to our information, an independent labour activist has been detained last June in Shanxi Province for trying to set up a federation for retired workers and is now suffering severely at the hands of the authorities.

Our sources indicate that Di Tiangui, 57, formerly a state employee at Dazhong Machinery Factory, has spent more than two months shackled and handcuffed at a detention centre in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province. Di was detained by police in the evening of June 1 on suspicion of "establishing an illegal organisation". He had reportedly angered the authorities by co-authoring a declaration, earlier this year, urging the establishment of a national federation representing 30 million workers retired from state-owned enterprises.

Mr Di and other activists were apparently motivated to take action after seeing how retirees were paid little or no pensions and were deprived of basic social services such as health care. They decided to seek the establishment of a nationwide retired workers’ federation after seeing that petitions along official channels had led nowhere. This situation strikingly resembles that of dismissed and/or retired workers in Liaoning and Heilongjiang Provinces and other areas, described in the complaints addressed last April and June by the ICFTU to the Committee on Freedom of Association.

We have now learned that, on the [5th] of July, police formally arrested Di on charges of "incitement to subvert state power". The Committee on Freedom of Association is very familiar with this charge, which can – and generally does - lead to heavy prison sentences. Furthermore, such arrests and indictments are clearly practiced by the authorities in order to deter other potentially interested workers from joining efforts at independent trade union activity. Indeed, it is now being reported that, intimidated by the stern treatment of Di, other independent labour activists in the area have gone into hiding.

The news of Mr Di’s detention was confirmed earlier this month by a police official in Taiyuan, who however denied that the prisoner had been mistreated. This is in stark contrast to reports by his relatives, who are extremely worried that Di “will not be able to stand the physical strain". They point at the fact that he suffers from high blood pressure and vasculitis and that his health has deteriorated precipitously while in detention. When he was visited in jail on June 21, he had reportedly “become thinner," and “his feet had ulcers and were so swollen he couldn't even wear shoes, and he was shackled in a way making it impossible for him to stand upright."

However, a local police officer reportedly denied that Di was suffering any serious ailments. "He's pretty fat," the officer reportedly said.

The ICFTU of course considers the detention of any independent trade unionists or workers’ rights activists as unacceptable under ILO principles. Moreover, it is utterly shocked at the treatment of prisoners in the PRC, particularly that of political prisoners, a category to which labour rights’ detainees clearly belong. The treatment inflicted on our colleague Mr Di is brutal, painful and completely inappropriate. As such it amounts to torture, thereby putting China’s Government in further breach of international law, owing to its ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984.

This and many other examples reported by the ICFTU to the Committee on Freedom of Association, clearly indicate that the PRC Government is not in the least prepared to abide by the assurances, repeatedly offered to the international community, that it is intent on eliminating torture from China’s prison and judicial systems.

We therefore request you, Mr Director-General, to intervene urgently with the PRC authorities in order to obtain the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Di Tiangui or, failing that, that his shackles be removed and that he be provided with adequate medical care as a matter of utmost urgency.

In the meantime, may we request you to bring the contents of this communication to the attention of the Committee on Freedom of Association and express the hope that the Committee will likewise accept to forward our concerns to the Government and express similar demands for the better treatment and release of all detained labour activists, including Mr Di.

Thanking you in advance, and with best regards,

Yours sincerely,

[Guy Ryder]
General Secretary

Online: 2002-08-19
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