International Day of Action to Free the Liaoyang Five -- An Open Letter

International Day of Action to Free the Liaoyang Five

An Open Letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese Government

July 10, 2002

July 10 is the international day of action for the release of arrested Liaoyang labour activists including Yao Fuxin, Pang Qingxiang, Xiao Yunliang and Wang Zhaoming. On that day, trade unions in 27 countries will petition the local Chinese embassies and consulates for the release of these arrested workers’ representatives.

As trade unionists and labour activists, we demand, once again, that the Central Committee of the CPC and the Chinese government undertake immediate investigation in the 4-month workers’ protests in Liaoyang, and intervene with the Liaoyang government for the release of the workers’ representatives who have been arrested illegally.

The CPC Constitution still states that the party is the vanguard of the proletariat; the PRC Constitution stipulates that the Chinese government upholds the leadership of the party. But do you know that workers in Liaoyang, just as those across the country, do not have enough to survive? From mid-March this year, thousands of angry workers from over 20 factories took to the street in demand of basic living allowance, pension and backpay. They also wanted to reveal how corrupt local officials forced the state factories into bankruptcy.

The workers’ protests came after their numerous petitions were coldly ignored. It was Yao and the other three workers’ representatives who tried very hard to negotiate with the Liaoyang government, and were the ones who held back some of the workers from blocking the railroad. However, even these rational voices of the workers were muffled -- the workers’ representatives were secretly arrested by the Liaoyang government for ‘illegally demonstrating and disrupting social order’. They have been held in detention for more than 3 months.

The act of the Liaoyang government is a brutal blow to the workers who have taken things into their own hands out of desperation. It is also a violent act to cover emerging evidence of corruption. The demonstration is downplayed by the Liaoyang government as being ‘instigated by a handful of individuals’, hoping to fool the public as well as you and other party members.

But the kind of social problems, particularly felt in Liaoyang, have been hitting hard on the Chinese workers. These kind of arrests can no longer deceive and deter the workers, but can only do the opposite – intensify social conflicts. The reason is simple -- it is a reality that no one fails to miss, a reality of poverty, of workers who cannot survive and take up action when their petitions are ignored. No one will believe in propaganda like ‘instigated by a handful of individuals’.

Arresting workers in the name of ‘inciting troubles’ and ‘disrupting social order’ will only upset the workers, intensify the conflicts, and disrupt social stability at its roots. Moreover, it will create additional support and sympathy for the arrested workers, and further alienate workers from the party and the government. Actions like these are contrary to the constitutions of the party and the state, and will cause workers at home and abroad to lose faith in the party and the government.

Release the arrested Liaoyang workers and uphold the basic workers’ rights enshrined in ILO Conventions No. 87 (Freedom of Association) and 98 (Right to Collective Bargaining). This will be good for the Liaoyang workers, good for the Chinese workers, good for the international worker’ movement in this period of globalisation, and good for the CPC and the Chinese government.

Asia Monitor Resource Center

China Labour Bulletin

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee

July 10, 2002

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