Press Release on Update on Workers’ Protests in Liaoyang (2002-05-08)

8 May, 2002

China Labour Bulletin Press Release

The May Day public holiday has just finished and workers from the Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory in Liaoning province are still employing various methods of struggle to oppose corruption and secure their rights. They are also demanding the release of four of their representatives. Recently, they have adopted the methods of the Fushun miners and have put up notices on walls near their factory and homes to publicise demonstrations organised for the 7and 8 of May. The notices called on workers to assemble at the government offices on these two days. Although officers from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) tore the notices down, the demonstration succeeded in bringing between four and five hundred people to demonstrate in front of the government offices.

In order to block the workers’ petition to the government, the authorities placed long rows of tables in front of the government building's gates and held a "blood donation" event and an "art and literature festival". However, the workers congregated opposite the government building and publicly issued an open letter: “Declaration to the People of Liaoyang”.

Guo Xiujing is the wife of arrested workers’ representative Yao Fuxin. She told CLB the main points of the declaration which was pasted up in public places:

  1. The city government must immediately and unconditionally release the four workers’ representatives and apologise to the Ferroalloy Factory workers;
  2. Conduct an investigation into the Ferroalloy bankruptcy and those responsible;
  3. Conduct an investigation to discover the whereabouts of the Rmb 3 million in public funds and punish those responsible for its disappearance;
  4. Severely punish the men who beat up workers’ representative Gu Baoshu;
  5. Uphold the rights of unemployed workers.

Guo Xiujing told CLB that the workers had no alterative but to organise the protests and that they hoped they could secure their legal rights as citizens via an officially authorized protest. Each time the Liaoyang workers demonstrated, they handed in an application to hold a demonstration in accordance with the law. On 29 April, when they went to hand in the application for a second time, the PSB refused to accept it on the pretext that the people who had called for the demonstration had not signed their names on the application. On the morning of 8 May, the Guo Xiujing and three other worker representatives again went to hand in an application, this time signed by as many as twenty workers. The PSB officers still refused to accept it. Guo and her fellow representatives had no choice but to leave the application on a table in the police station.

Guo Xiujing also told CLB that since 29 April when the workers went to try and hand in the application for the second time, the general secretary of the Liaoyang government and Chairman Su of the Liaoyang Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) had visited the homes of Guo and other workers’ representatives to pressure them with threats and generally intimidating behaviour. However, this had no effect on the workers who had already sacrificed everything and were not only not afraid of the government officials but also defended their demands. When Guo Xiujing and other representatives sincerely asked why the police had beaten up Gu Baoshu, LFTU Chairman Su replied that this was Gu’s own fault.

Guo Xiujing told CLB that the workers were committed to carrying on their struggle to the end even though they had already been petitioning the government for five years and to this day had not received any answers from the authorities. Frequently during their long struggle, the workers had argued for blocking the railway lines but this tactic had been blocked by Yao Fuxin and other workers’ representatives who had been at pains to uphold social stability throughout their legal struggle. The government’s response has been to put them behind bars. For the Liaoyang workers, this has been especially hard to swallow. As Guo Xiujing explained, if the workers’ representatives are sentenced, the workers will take this case as far as they can – with or without support from the international trade union community – even if it leads them into personal bankruptcy.

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