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News ::
China: International Action Needed on Workers' Trials (english)
26 Mar 2003
"As a member of the ILO, China must be held accountable for its international obligations to uphold the rights of workers, including the core right of freedom of association."
(New York, January 10, 2003) The upcoming subversion trials of two labor organizers in Northeast China are a direct threat to the rights of all Chinese workers, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch called upon the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva to intervene with Chinese officials at the highest levels to urge them to drop all charges against Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, expected to go on trial in Liaoyang on January 15, 2003. Human Rights Watch also asked the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello to intervene. He is due to visit China later this year.

Yao and Xiao were detained last March in connection with massive demonstrations by laid off and unemployed workers in northeast China over long-standing grievances such as management corruption and unpaid wages. Human Rights Watch published a report in August documenting the unrest and its causes, and China's ongoing attempts to crush independent labor activities (see http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/chinalbr02/).

The two workers were originally indicted for "illegal assembly, marches, and protests" over long-standing grievances, but their attorney was recently informed they will be put on trial for subversion, which can carry severe penalties, including life imprisonment or a death sentence.

"As a member of the ILO, China must be held accountable for its international obligations to uphold the rights of workers, including the core right of freedom of association," Human Rights Watch's Executive Director for Asia Brad Adams wrote to the ILO. He noted that the prosecutions seemed to be aimed at discouraging future protests by disaffected workers.

The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association is set to consider the case of the two detained workers when it meets in March, as well as two other worker representatives also detained last year in Liaoyang but released on bail on December 20, 2002. It is not clear whether they will also be charged and put on trial.
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