Jun 23, 2003
We reprint here a translation of an article appearing in Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper put out by Trotskyist comrades in France.
Two Chinese workers, Yao Fuxin, age 57, and Xiao Yunliang, age 54, were sentenced to seven years and four years of prison after already spending a year under arrest. In March 2002 they led workers' protests in Liaoyang, a large working class city in northeastern China.
More than 10,000 workers laid off from state enterprises had gone into the streets on March 11 and 12, 2002 to demand payment of back wages and to denounce official corruption. On March 17, Yao Fuxin, one of the representatives of the workers, who was retired from the Ferro-Alloy factory, was arrested. On March 18, 30,000 laid off workers from twenty state companies in Liaoyang demonstrated to defend their demands and to demand freedom for Yao Fuxin.
On March 19, in spite of the city being surrounded by police, 10,000 workers demonstrated again. On March 20, city authorities asked the anti-riot police and the army to occupy the city. Three other worker leaders were arrested, among whom was Xiao Yunliang. They were tried last January. Their sentences were handed down on May 11.
According to human rights organizations, since his imprisonment, the situation of Xiao Yunliang is causing a lot of concern: he is in isolation, and he is spitting up blood. He's undoubtedly lacking appropriate medical care.
Their families haven't been allowed to see the prisoners. On the contrary, they've been harassed by the police, have been ordered not to take part in any public demonstrations, nor to petition Beijing about their imprisoned family members, nor to communicate with the media.
"You accuse me of subversion, but if we demonstrated last year, it's because the workers weren't paid for twenty months and some have nothing to eat," declared Yao Fuxin to his judges during his trial last January.
Actually, the non-payment of wages is common throughly China, in particular, in public firms that are being shut by the government's drive to privatize them. A little before the workers' demonstrations of March 2002 in Liaoyang, 50,000 oil workers of Daqing City demonstrated to demand the payment of their wages.
According to official Chinese sources, there are about 14 million workers across the country who have recently demanded back wages, either workers in government firms or firms with private foreign capital, like those in the free trade zone of Shenzhen. The official unions, instead of organizing workers to defend themselves, collaborate with the public powers and the bosses. At Daqing, this is why angry oil field workers attacked the office of the union local during a protest and then went on to found an independent union.
The Chinese regime – which, despite its name has nothing to do with communism – has always repressed demonstrations and locked up worker leaders.
Solidarity with the Chinese workers and imprisoned worker militants!