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CLB Press Release on Liaoyang Workers' Protests (2002-03-20)
March 20, 2002
At 11 a.m. on March 20th, the Liaoyang City government deployed a large contingent of armed police who arrested three leaders of the Ferroalloy Factory workers. Those arrested are: Pang Qingxiang (male, 58 years old); Xiao Yunliang (male, 57 years old) and Wang Zhaoming (male, 39 years old). This is in addition to the secret arrest on March 17 of another workers' representative, Yao Fuxin (male, 54 years old), whose wife is also a Ferroalloy Factory worker. In total four workers' representatives of the Ferroalloy Factory have been arrested.
According to workers who witnessed the events, on March 20, the workers gathered in front of City Hall to demand the release of the workers' representative, Yao Fuxin, who was covertly arrested three days' earlier. Yao Fuxin was taken away by plainclothes security officers on March 17, less than one kilometer from his home. Yao's daughter told China Labour Bulletin that factory workers and their families went to the Liaoyang City Public Security Bureau to make inquiries about the incident. The Security Bureau denied having arrested Yao. So during the three days of March 18, 19 and 20, tens of thousands of Liaoyang workers from different factories gathered in front of the city government offices demanding the release of Yao Fuxin.
According to eye-witnesses who talked to China Labour Bulletin, at 8:30 a.m. on March 20, more than 2,000 Ferroalloy Factory workers once again gathered in front of the City Hall, demanding the release of arrested worker representative Yao Fuxin. A worker representative named Gu Baoshu went inside the Security Bureau headquarters to negotiate, but was immediately detained. A worker who saw this informed the workers outside, who then broke into the office and rescued Gu. When they were inside the office where Gu was detained, the workers saw the Liaoyang City security chief, Gong Yi, who was present throughout the incident.
In was raining on the morning of March 20. Having stood in the rain until 11am, the workers decided to return home. In order to protect the three worker representatives, more than 40 elderly workers surrounded them in a circle. Not far from the City Hall, about 100 police attacked and beat the elderly workers who were protecting the workers' representatives. Forcing their way through the protective circle, the police arrested the three representatives. Scores of elderly workers were injured in the police beat up, but the number is unknown.
China Labour Bulletin believes that the arrest of workers' representatives by the Liaoyang City government will only deepen the conflict. It is both irresponsible and unacceptable. Any intensified conflicts are the consequences of the stance of the Liaoyang city government. We strongly demand that the Liaoyang City government release the arrested workers' leaders immediately. This should be the first step in resolving the conflict.
China Labour Bulletin once again calls on the ACFTU, the only legal trade union recognized under the Trade Union Law, not to shed its responsibility of protecting the workers' representatives. We request that the ACFTU investigate the arrest of the workers' representatives and work for their release.
China Labour Bulletin reminds the Chinese central government that the ongoing violation of labour rights is a reality that cannot be ignored. As a government, it has the obligation to protect the workers right to livelihood, and the constitutional freedom of assembly, association and speech. With regard to the Liaoyang government's suppression of the constitutional civic rights, the central government should immediately use all administrative and legal means to stop this repression. It must immediately order an investigation into the Liaoyang government's violent suppression of the workers peaceful demonstration. If any illegal, unconstitutional acts are found to have been committed, then the city government must be brought to court. Otherwise, people's rage cannot be calmed, rule of law will stay as window-dressing, and unstable social environment will set in, bringing irreversible damage to the economic restructuring ahead.
China Labour Bulletin
March 20, 2002