About the Individual: Yao Fuxin
Imprisoned over Peaceful Anti-Corruption Protest
Yao Fuxin, 57, was secretly detained in March 2002 and formally charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb social order" for his role in leading tens of thousands of workers from Liaoyang factories in a peaceful demonstration protesting against corruption and demanding the payment of back wages and pensions. He was later charged with the far more serious crime of subversion, due to alleged involvement in the banned China Democracy Party. A former employee at the Liaoyang Steel Rolling Factory, Yao is married to Guo Sujing, and has one daughter, Yao Dan.
During his trial, Yao insisted on his innocence, affirming his belief in the government and his desire to resolve workers' grievances. He was sentenced in 2003 to seven years in prison, which he is serving at Lingyuan No. 2 Prison in Liaoning Province. As part of the sentence, he is to be deprived of his political rights for an additional three years after his release. His family fought for a retrial with the assistance of Yao Fuxin's defense lawyer, Mo Shaoping, but the Liaoning Province Higher People's Court rejected the appeal and upheld the original sentence on June 25, 2003.
Since his detention, Yao has been plagued by serious health problems. Family members, who visit him regularly, say he remains in very poor health. Yao's family and Liaoyang workers have repeatedly appealed to authorities as high as the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Supreme People's Court (SPC) to release Yao on medical parole. But these appeals have been unsuccessful. Yao was also repeatedly denied permission to visit his dying mother, who passed away on April 7, 2008.
Current Status: Abusive Treatment after Heart Attacks
Yao Fuxin has heart disease and high blood pressure. Following his detention, he lost hearing in his right ear due to an injury and suffered a heart attack, but his family was barred from visiting him. In August 2005, Yao suffered another heart attack which left him hospitalized for some 20 days. His family, who live six hours away from the Lingyuan No. 2 prison, was allowed to visit him at the hospital in Lingyuan the day after the second attack, but the guards then refused to give them phone numbers to follow up on his condition. The second heart attack damaged his vision, further damaged his hearing, and left him with a numbness in his legs. While he was given medicine for his high blood pressure, he stopped taking the medicine upon returning to prison for fear of its potentially debilitating side effects.
Sources close to Yao's family say prison authorities fear Yao's continued popularity among workers and treat him with particular harshness. Yao is kept under 24-hour surveillance. He is not allowed to talk with other prisoners or go outside. Two prisoners have been assigned to monitor his movements, even his brief toilet breaks. He is not allowed to read books or newspapers. After the prison heating system broke down, prison officials refused to issue him warm clothing or let his family provide any.
Prison officials have reportedly threatened Yao with a curtailment of family visits if word of his treatment and condition escape to the outside. He is not allowed at this time to write or call his family. Attempts by his lawyer, Mo Shaoping, to improve his conditions have been unsuccessful. So he has had to bear his abusive treatment in silence, hoping that his compliance will result in more sympathetic treatment.
Yao's wife and daughter petitioned the NPC, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and the SPC in 2006 and 2007, to intervene in his case and support their request for medical parole for Yao, but received no reply.
Relevant UN Documents
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined on November 28, 2002, that Yao's detention was arbitrary and directed the Chinese government to remedy the situation in order to conform with the norms and principles incorporated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Working Group also asked the government to consider ratifying, as soon as possible, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. (Yao Fuxin v. China, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2004/3/Add.1 at 3 (2002))
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a "Special Procedure" of the Human Rights Council, the main human rights body at the UN. It investigates cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty around the world, and acts on information submitted by governments, international bodies, NGOs, and individuals. In its China cases, the Working Group has examined issues related to the lack of an independent judiciary and imprisonment on the basis of exercising freedom of expression. The Working Group has visited China twice (in 1997 and 2004), where it met with government officials, lawyers, judges, prison officials, and prisoners. Although it has made many recommendations, few have been implemented.
Yao Fuxin's Story
Yao Fuxin's legal problems began when he helped workers stage a massive protest of 17,000 people in Liaoyang, Liaoning Province, in March 2002. He was secretly detained by plainclothes security officers on March 17. While Yao was in detention, authorities notified his family that he was receiving treatment for a heart attack and other health problems, raising speculation that he was severely mistreated in custody. He was found guilty of subversion in 2003.
Before his imprisonment, Yao was active in the struggle of Liaoyang workers against pervasive corruption, which workers blamed for a string of plant closures and bankruptcies that put thousands out of work and left many factories with insufficient funds to pay wages, pensions, and severance packages. In 1998, Yao was one of a group of ten workers who traveled to Beijing to petition central authorities against corruption in the city, to no avail.
After the Ferro-Alloy Factory, where Yao's wife was employed, was declared bankrupt in early 2002, local workers founded the All-Liaoyang Bankrupt and Unemployed Workers' Provisional Union. Yao, who had attempted to organize an independent audit of the factory's accounts, was elected by the workers as their spokesperson to conduct negotiations with the local government.
The workers' complaints were ignored, and Yao and others began coordinating another mass demonstration. Then, on March 17, 2002, Yao was quietly detained. Authorities initially denied that they were holding him, but Yao's court verdict confirmed he was placed under criminal detention that day.
Workers protested in the days following Yao's detention, and three more leaders in the movement, Pang Qingxiang, Xiao Yunliang, and Wang Zhaoming, were also detained. On March 30, 2002, all four men were formally arrested and charged with "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order," which is punishable by imprisonment under Article 290(1) of the Criminal Law. Peng Qingxiang and Wang Zhaoming were conditionally released on bail in late 2002, but Xiao Yunliang and Yao remained in custody.
Yao and Xiao were eventually both indicted on charges of subversion. They were alleged to have formed the Liaoning Preparatory Committee of the China Democracy Party (CDP), with Yao Fuxin as the main Liaoyang coordinator. Yao's lawyer reportedly acknowledged that Yao had attended CDP meetings but stopped doing so after being told by authorities that it was a hostile organization.
Yao was allowed to meet with his lawyer just five days in advance of his trial before the Liaoyang Intermediate People's Court, which began on January 15, 2003. Yao and Xiao's verdict was announced on May 9, 2003. Xiao was sentenced to four years in prison and the deprivation of his political rights for two years after his release, while Yao was given seven years in prison and three years' deprivation of political rights following his release. Xiao Yunliang was released from prison in early 2006 but kept under close surveillance. Yao's release is expected in 2009.
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China Labour Bulletin's Advocacy and Media Work on Behalf of Yao Fuxin
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