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Li Wangyang Gets More of the Same
Veteran Trade Unionist Sentenced to Ten Years
Despite imminent improvements to China's Trade Union Law, rumours of the right to strike being given legal status, China's ratification of the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the All China Federation of Trade Union's extensive contacts with foreign trade union delegations, the reality of labour organising in China remains oppressive. In September 2001, labour organiser Li Wangyang was sentenced to 10 years in prison following a courageous and public campaign to pressure the government into paying compensation for injuries received during beatings while serving a previous prison sentence.
Li Wangyang, 51, began organising workers way back in 1983 when he initiated the Shaoyang City Workers' Mutual Aid Society, an act that landed him in a police lock up. Undeterred, he involved himself in the 1989 Democracy Movement by organising and chairing the Shaoyang Autonomous Workers' Union, for which he was charged with "counterrevolutionary crimes" and sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1989.
Li's time in prison was particularly severe. Beaten, underfed and tortured, he emerged from prison with lung, heart, back and respiratory illnesses, nine kilos lighter and shorter in height. It was his determination that the Chinese government should be held responsible for his treatment in prison that has resulted in him receiving a third term of detention. On September 5th, Li was convicted of "incitement to subvert state power" by the Shaoyang Intermediate People's Court. Many of Li's supporters were denied access to the proceedings. On September 20th, the court formally announced a sentence of 10 years in prison. Li' sister, Li Wangling was sentenced to three years of "reeducation through labour" earlier this year. Her "mistake", was to publicise Li Wangyang's plight by talking to foreign media stations and commentators. She also talked to CLB coordinator Han Dongfang during a labour rights broadcast for Radio Free Asia.
Police took Li Wangyang from his Daxiang Hospital bed on May 6th, 2001. At that time, he was in hospital receiving treatment for his medical condition. He even conducted a 22-day hunger strike from his hospital bed in order to pressure the government to pay compensation and medical costs for his illnesses, which are a direct result of his previous sentence.
(HK: various sources, September 2001)