For Immediate Release
Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that authorities in the northeastern industrial city of Liaoyang have arrested labor leader Wang Dawei, and have taken suppressive action against further street protests by disgruntled workers.
The renewed crackdown follows overtures by Liaoyang officials last week suggesting that they were willing to engage in negotiations to address demands by thousands of workers laid off from the bankrupt Liaoyang Ferro-Alloy Factory.
Wang Dawei was one of fifteen worker representatives who last week met Liaoyang municipal officials to press for the release of labor activists Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, currently held on subversion charges. The worker representatives, which also included Wang Zhaoming and Pang Qingxiang, also urged officials to reach an acceptable solution to the problems of corruption and pay in arrears that sparked massive public demonstrations in Liaoyang last March. The first negotiation session, originally scheduled for February 20, was postponed by Liaoyang officials due to protests by workers from another troubled factory.
The worker representatives said last week that if negotiations failed, they intended to stage more mass protests. Sources say Wang Dawei was to be the main leader of any future protest, and was preparing the necessary paperwork to obtain permission for a public demonstration. Wang had been one of the original leaders of last year’s protests, and had been arrested and detained by the Public Security Bureau, but has been released on bail pending trial.
According to a number of sources in Liaoyang, on the morning of February 24 a large number of police officers began suppressive action against further labor unrest. Around 10 a.m. police arrested Wang Dawei in his home and took him away. He was eventually released four hours later, but has not been answering his telephone.
At the same time that Wang was arrested and detained, police officers surrounded the homes of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang and warned their families not to participate in any public protest, and not to petition Beijing on the matter, or to communicate with the news media.
HRIC deeply deplores the suppression of worker protests in Liaoyang. HRIC president Liu Qing notes, “The Ferro-Alloy workers were clearly planning a lawful protest, as evidenced by their preparing to apply for the appropriate public assembly permits. They had made it clear that a public protest was a last-ditch measure to press for their interests if municipal officials failed to negotiate in good faith. By depriving the workers of this legitimate means of expression the Liaoyang authorities have showed their contempt for international covenants protecting workers’ right to protest and strike to defend their interests.”
HRIC calls on the Liaoyang authorities to terminate their crackdown on the worker activists, and to resume negotiations over the detention of labor leaders and appropriate restitution for laid-off workers.
For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495