Update on Liaoyang Protests

Update on Liaoyang Protests

21 March 2003

China Labour Bulletin has learned that yesterday morning over twenty retired or laid-off workers from the Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Factory joined together with the wives of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, the two workers’ leaders who have remained in custody since the start of the mass demonstrations at the factory over twelve months ago, in a petitioning visit to the Liaoyang city authorities

In an expression of solidarity, the group accompanied Guo Xiujing and Su Anhua , the wives of Yao and Xiao, to the Liaoyang municipal government offices, where they asked the Letters and Complaints Bureau to pass on the group’s demands to the city’s senior leadership (whom they were told were unavailable at the time). In a meeting lasting more than an hour, the delegation urged the government to make public the results of the trial of the two men, which took place on 15 January 2003. Although both defendants were charged with the serious crime of “subversion” no verdicts have yet been announced.

Three other worker activists – Wang Dawei, Gu Baoshu and Wang Zhaoming, all currently “released on bail awaiting trial” (qubao houshen) in connection with the Liaoyang mass protests of spring 2002 – were prevented by large numbers of police officers from leaving their houses yesterday to take part in the workers’ collective visit to the city authorities.

The workers’ delegation also urged that Su Anhua, the wife of Xiao Yunliang, be allowed to visit her husband at the detention centre where he is being held, in the light of steadily mounting fears that Xiao is now seriously ill. The two prisoners’ families recently heard from a former detainee in the same detention centre that Xiao was suffering from a lung disease which had caused him to spit up blood, and that he had recently been placed in an isolation cell at the jail. It is feared that he may be suffering from tuberculosis, which if left untreated can be life threatening; it is not known whether Xiao has been given access to appropriate medical treatment.

According to various reports, Xiao has been in poor health since the early stages of his year-long detention. At his trial on 15 January, he had to be assisted into the courtroom by officers and then collapsed on the floor ten minutes after the trial began. Su Anhua is now extremely anxious about her husband’s medical condition and remains sceptical of the official reassurances she has been given; she told government officials yesterday that nothing less than a personal meeting with her husband would dispel her fears. This afternoon, an officer from the local police station relayed to Su a message from the Municipal Public Security Bureau: her husband had lost weight, according to the PSB official, but he was not suffering from any illness. However, the officer did not mention or respond to Su’s request to be allowed to visit her husband in jail.

China Labour Bulletin calls upon the Chinese authorities to promptly allow the wives of both the detained men to visit their husbands in person and to ensure that Xiao Yunliang is given immediate medical treatment in accordance with Chinese prison regulations and internationally agreed standards . Han Dongfang, China Labour Bulletin’s Director today commented: “The denial of family visits to the prisoners is both illegal and immoral. The Chinese authorities must not be allowed to compound the arbitrary arrest and trial of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang with what amounts to prolonged incommunicado detention – especially when there are serious concerns about Xiao’s state of health.”

According to CLB sources, the workers’ delegation yesterday asked the officials of the Liaoyang Letters and Visits Office to respond to their two requests within one week. When China Labour Bulletin contacted the same office by phone seeking its initial reaction to the workers’ petition, a member of staff replied: “Please don’t ask me these kinds of questions. This matter is a major headache for us and I cannot comment on it.”

Later yesterday, at 2.00 pm, Yao Dan and Xiao Yu, the daughters of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, went to the Liaoyang Intermediate People’s Court to speak to the judge, Nian Tiepeng, who had presided over their fathers’ trial. Judge Nian promised the two women that he would visit Xiao Yunliang in person on 21 March and would then inform Xiao’s family directly about his medical condition.

Han Dongfang reiterated China Labour Bulletin’s call for the Chinese authorities to immediately release the two men and drop all charges of subversion against them: “Instead of using flimsy charges of subversion against such people, the authorities should listen to the voices of the millions of workers in China and not simply attempt to stifle their legitimate expressions of concerns on fundamental issues like corruption and wage arrears.” He added: “Unless the Chinese government takes action to remedy the causes of worker unrest there will be no end to the mounting tide of discontent.”
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