Zhang Shanguang Sentenced to Ten Years' Imprisonment

January 5, 1999



On 27 December 1998, Hunan province independent trade union activist,
Zhang Shanguang was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. He was accused
of endangering national security after talking with the media about a
demonstration organised by local unemployed workers and farmers. Previously,
in March 1998, Zhang applied to the local government to establish an association
to protect the interests of unemployed workers and farmers. The application
was rejected.



Formerly a secondary school teacher, Zhang was jailed for seven years
in 1989 for putting up a poster castigating the government for the massacre
in Beijing. During his imprisonment, he contracted tuberculosis and as
a result of being denied adequate treatment, his illness was still not
under control when he was recently re-arrested. Zhang's wife, Hou Xuezhu
said that the prison authorities had taken Zhang for treatment but the
medical fees were passed on to herself. From the time of his arrest on
July 21, 1997 until the present day, Hou Xuezhu had already handed over
more than Rmb 1,000 to the detention centre to cover the cost of food
and medical treatment.



When Hou Xuezhu arrived for the hearing on December 27, she was not allowed
into the courtroom. The reason given was Zhang's case contained material
that cannot be open to public scrutiny. Zhang was found guilty in a secret
trial lasting just two hours.



The "PRC, Criminal Procedure Law", Article 111 states that the People's
Court shall allow a public hearing for the first session of a trial unless
it involves national security, personal privacy, or the offender is aged
between 14 to 16. None of these conditions are relevant to Zhang's case.
The trial therefore violated criminal procedure law and was illegal.



According to Hou Xuezhu, the verdict did not mention Zhang's application
for setting up an association for unemployed workers and farmers in the
county of Shupu. It stated that Zhang had released intelligence to foreign
organisations, including a journalist from Radio Free Asia, concerning
a demonstration organised by unemployed workers and farmers. The "intelligence"
referred to was common knowledge in the area where the demonstration was
held and Hou believes that the verdict is simply a ploy to conceal the
real reason for locking up her husband. The authorities were doubtless
keen to avoid more protest by avoiding a direct reference to his attempt
to set up an independent organisation.



According to Hou Xuezhu, the verdict did not mention Zhang's application
for setting up an association for unemployed workers and farmers in the
county of Shupu. It stated that Zhang had released intelligence to foreign
organisations, including a journalist from Radio Free Asia, concerning
a demonstration organised by unemployed workers and farmers. The "intelligence"
referred to was common knowledge in the area where the demonstration was
held and Hou believes that the verdict is simply a ploy to conceal the
real reason for locking up her husband. The authorities were doubtless
keen to avoid more protest by avoiding a direct reference to his attempt
to set up an independent organisation.



In China, the number of jobless people has already exceeded 40 million.
The majority are living below the minimum living standard set by the government.
Life is hard and people are very angry. Consequently, there have been
waves of protests across all of China. Terrified of losing control of
the situation, the Chinese government has handed down this heavy jail
sentenced to Zhang in order to frighten workers who are considering organising
trade unions.



Hou stated that, in her view, her husband was merely exercising his right
as a citizen in trying to register an association. This right is granted
by the Constitution, which clearly states freedom of association as a
right of all Chinese citizens and also by the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which China recently signed. The
aim of the association was to protect the rights of the unemployed, and
struggle to uphold their basic livelihood. Hou called on all international
trade unions and labour groups to take up Zhang's case. She also urged
the Chinese government to release her husband and stop persecuting other
dissidents.



Zhang's tuberculosis is now very serious and Hou has requested that the
court order his release on medical grounds. The request has not yet been
answered. Hou also appealed to the local Judicial Department to grant
her husband immediate necessary medical treatment. Again, she appealed
to international trade unions and labour groups to monitor Zhang's health
while he is in prison.



On December 14, 1998, chairperson of the Beijing and Tianjin branch of
the China Democracy Party, Xu Wenli, was sentenced to thirteen years in
prison. One of the charges was based on Xu's criticism of the All China
Federation of Trade Unions for falling to represent workers' interests.
He called on workers to form independent unions to protect their rights.




The cases of Xu and Zhang are testament to the fact the government has
cast aside all considerations and is prepared to resort to any repressive
measures it deems necessary, no matter how high the price, in order to
crush attempts by workers to get organised. CLB believes that in future
there will be more workers and unionists who will meet with similar prosecution
for organising trade unions.



CLB will continue to report on any activities involving the independent
labour movement in China, including the cases of Zhang and Xu. We will
seek help from the international trade union movement and, where possible,
present complaints to the International Labour Organization until such
time as the Chinese government respects the rights of workers and trade
unions in China.


Han Dongfang

Chief Editor, CLB

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