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Human Rights in China Calls for Immediate Release of Labor Activist Yao Fuxin

November 25, 2002

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has joined with Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB) in calling for the immediate release of labor activist Yao Fuxin after local testimony refutes Chinese officials’ claims that Yao engaged in violent public demonstrations.

Yao Fuxin was arrested in March this year after leading major labor protests in relation to the closure in October 2001 of the Liaoyang City Ferroalloy Factory in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

HRIC and CLB both submitted petitions on Yao’s behalf to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which on July 11 requested a response from the Chinese government. The Chinese government recently responded with its reasons for Yao’s arrest (appended below).

At the request of the Working Group, which is meeting this week in Geneva, HRIC is submitting comments and additional information demonstrating that the government’s contentions are not supported by the facts.

In its official reply, the Chinese government states that Yao Fuxin was arrested and detained because he and other persons took advantage of worker discontent to “plan, instigate and carry out a number of destructive activities.” The Chinese government claimed that Yao and others “burst into the local government building, throwing the offices into turmoil, smashing public vehicles, blocking traffic and disrupting public order.” The Chinese government further claimed that since Yao’s detention, “all his rights and interests have been fully protected, his state of health remains good and he has not been subjected to any form of torture.”

However, inquiries by HRIC and CLB among local officials and member of the public in Liaoning present an entirely different picture.

  • Yao’s wife, Guo Xiujing, says that far from inciting violence or disrupting public transport, Yao and the other labor leaders on several occasions dissuaded workers from carrying out plans to block railway lines. Regarding the allegation of “bursting into a local government building,” Guo says that on March 20, three days after Yao was secretly arrested, representatives of the Ferroalloy workers presenting a petition at the municipal government offices ran into the building during a sudden rainstorm. That was the only time that anyone “burst into a local government building,” and it occurred after Yao had already been arrested.

    Guo Xiujing’s claims are supported by various officials and members of the public in Liaoyang, who all agree that Yao Fuxin never engaged in the activities of which the Chinese government accuses him. For example, officials of the Liaoyang Municipal Government say workers never engaged in any violent activity during their protests. And the vice-chairman of the Liaoyang Federation of Trade Unions says the most “extreme” activity that Yao had engaged in was to petition the government and express his views. “He conducted no violent or extreme activity,” the union official says. Regarding the allegation that Yao and other protestors “smashed public vehicles,” this union official says, “That’s a complete fabrication.”

    When inquiries were made among other officials of the Liaoyang Municipal Government, Liaoyang Public Security Bureau, and Liaoyang Procuratorate, although these officials declined to provide details of the circumstances of the worker protests, not one accused the protestors of any violent activity. Workers and family members likewise categorically denied any damage to public property or other violent activity by Yao and the others. The Procuratorate’s investigation concluded that Yao and the other protestors had engaged in nothing more serious than “illegally organizing a demonstration.”

    The only conclusion to be drawn from these numerous testimonials from a wide range of official and private sources is that the Chinese government’s allegations against Yao are completely baseless.

  • The Chinese government’s claims regarding Yao’s health are likewise inconsistent with reality. Yao’s wife Guo Xiujing says that Yao is currently being detained at the Shenyang Prison Infirmary. When Guo last visited Yao on October 9, she found Yao’s left hand incapacitated by such a serious tremor that he was unable to wash his clothes or perform other simple tasks. Yao’s family has requested that he be released on bail for health reasons, but their application has been denied. In the 8 months that Yao has been detained following his secret arrest, he has not been allowed his most basic human right to consult a lawyer. The circumstances of Yao’s detention directly contradict the Chinese government’s claims that “all his rights and interests have been fully protected, and his state of health remains good.”
  • Chinese officials have continued to harass other protestors and their families since Yao’s arrest. Around the time of the 16th Party Congress, from November 7 to 18, the Liaoyang Public Security Bureau dispatched at least 100 police officers to maintain a 24-hour watch on a dozen activist workers. When withdrawing on the 18th, a police officer instructed Guo Xiujing not to telephone outsiders, invite workers to her home, or gather with workers elsewhere under threat of prosecution.
  • In its reply to the Working Group, the Chinese government has also claimed that in accordance with demands from the Ferroalloy workers the Liaoyang city government conducted a “thorough and detailed investigation into the issues raised by the employees,” including allegations of corruption within the factory’s management, and demands for relocation subsidies and unemployment compensation. But inquiries among the workers indicate that the government has up to now compensated only 75% of their unpaid earnings, has paid them only a portion of the medical expenses and other compensation, and has not yet paid out any of their unemployment benefits. Although Yao himself was not a Ferroalloy employee, his wife was, and Yao as a family member was chosen by the Ferroalloy workers to lead protests to press for the workers’ legitimate demands. There is no law forbidding Yao to engage in these activities.

HRIC and CLB deplore the groundless claims and accusations made by the Chinese government in its reply to the UN Working Group regarding Yao. The two organizations plan to compile all of the information they have gathered in the course of their own inquiries and will present it to the UN Working Group with a request for further inquiry into Yao’s case.

In addition, HRIC and CLB will present to the UN Working Group the facts that Yao’s family were not informed of his detention until four days after his arrest, that he has been denied proper medical attention, and that he has been denied his right to consult a lawyer. CLB further points out that the Liaoyang government’s secret long-term detention of Yao contravenes the Right to Collective Bargaining enshrined by the International Labor Organization, of which China is a member.

HRIC and CLB call for the Chinese government to demonstrate that it recognizes the legitimate basic rights of workers by immediately releasing Yao Fuxin.

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495

Official English translation of the Chinese government’s reply to
the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:

Receipt is hereby acknowledged of communication G/SO 218/2 of 11 July 2002 from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Chinese Government has conducted a thorough investigation into the circumstances relating to the communication and submits the following response.

I. RELEVANT CIRCUMSTANCES

Yao Fuxin, male, born September 1950, originally employed at the rolled steel plant (note: not, as stated, the Liaoyang city ferroalloy factory) in Liaoyang city, Liaoning province.
Because of operating losses sustained over several years, in October 2001 the general meeting of employees’ representatives of the Liaoyang city ferroalloy factory, following consultations, decided to file for bankruptcy of the enterprise and in November bankruptcy proceedings were officially instituted. From 11 to 21 March 2002, more than 500 employees and retirees of the Liaoyang city ferroalloy factory applied to the city government for an increase in their relocation subsidies and economic compensation rates, and demanded that the corrupt managers and other staff at the enterprise should be punished. The Liaoyang city government gave extremely careful attention to their demands and promptly set up a board of inquiry to conduct a thorough and detailed investigation into the issues raised by the employees, and adopted the following measures to resolve the issue:

  1. Punishment, in accordance with the law, of the corrupt officials: The judicial authorities investigated the unlawful and criminal activities conducted by the corrupt officials and took the following action: one person has been convicted; one person is being prosecuted; one person has been taken into criminal detention; three people are out on bail awaiting trial; and cases have been opened against a further seven people;
  2. All possible means are being deployed to raise funds to maintain the basic living conditions of the factory employees;
  3. Assistance is being mobilized to redeploy the staff laid off to other jobs. Thanks to efforts by the local government, the situation was quickly calmed.

Yao Fuxin is not in fact an employee of the Liaoyang city ferroalloy factory. In the course of the events alluded to above, however, Yao colluded with employees of the Liaoyang city ferroalloy factory, taking advantage of their discontent to plan, instigate and carry out a number of destructive activities. Yao and his accomplices burst into the local government building, throwing the offices into turmoil, smashing public vehicles, blocking traffic and disrupting public order. The unlawful activities conducted by Yao and his accomplices seriously disrupted production activities in the city, as well as the inhabitants’ daily lives and work routine, endangered public safety and property and provoked the strong disapproval of the general public. As Yao’s conduct was in breach of relevant provisions of the Chinese regulations on the organization of assemblies and marches, on 27 March the public security authorities, acting in accordance with the provisions of article 296 of the Chinese Criminal Code, took him into criminal detention on suspicion of the crime of organizing an unlawful assembly, march or demonstration. Since Yao has been taken into detention, all his rights and interests have been fully protected, his state of health remains good and he has not been subjected to any form of torture.

As is evident from the circumstances described above, Yao was arrested because his activities breached the country’s criminal law. Faced with criminal activities of this kind, no country governed by the rule of law will stand idly by and do nothing. The measures taken by the judicial authorities against Yao are entirely consistent with the law and do not in any way constitute arbitrary detention.

The Chinese Government respectfully request that the content of the above reply be included in full in a relevant document of the United Nations.