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Home page > 10 - Livre Dix : SYNDICALISME ET AUTO-ORGANISATION DES TRAVAILLEURS > International solidarity with chinese workers, activists and unionists (...)

International solidarity with chinese workers, activists and unionists arrested

Wednesday 1 June 2011, by Robert Paris

Hu Shigen, professeur à l’Institut de langues étrangères de Pékin, a été arrêté le 27 mai 1992 alors qu’il préparait un événement commémoratif pour le massacre de Tiananmen du 4 juin 1989. Il a été également accusé d’avoir fondé en janvier 1991, avec Wang Guoqi, le parti démocrate libéral de Chine et d’avoir participé, fin 1991, à la création de l’Union des syndicats libres chinois.

Il a été détenu deux ans au secret jusqu’à son procès qui s’est tenu le 16 décembre 1994 après avoir été différé à deux reprises. En juin 1995, il a été condamné à vingt ans de prison, suivis de cinq ans de privation de ses droits politiques.

Hu Shigen faisait partie des « 16 de Pékin », un groupe de militants jugés pour leurs tentatives de défense des droits des travailleurs et de la démocratie. Accusé d’avoir été le meneur de ce groupe « contre-révolutionnaire », il a été condamné à la plus lourde peine.

En décembre 2005, Hu Shigen a bénéficié d’une remise de peine de 7 mois, juste après la visite du rapporteur spécial de l’ONU sur la torture, Manfred Nowak. En février 2007, fait inhabituel dans un laps de temps aussi court, une autre remise de peine, de 17 mois, lui a été accordée.

Détenu dans la prison N°2 de Pékin, son état de santé s’est beaucoup dégradé. Des occidentaux qui ont obtenu l’autorisation de lui rendre visite ont fait part de leur inquiétude quant à ses chances de survie d’ici à sa libération, prévue en 2012.


Zhang Shanguang, 53 ans, est originaire de Xupu, dans la province du Hunan (sud-est de la Chine). En 1989, il était enseignant et a été condamné à sept ans de prison pour avoir posé une affiche critiquant les mesures de répression engagées par le gouvernement contre les manifestations étudiantes de la place Tiananmen. A sa libération, il est devenu ouvrier. Il a ensuite fondé l’association Shu pu pour la protection des droits et des intérêts des travailleurs licenciés.

Il a été interpellé le 21 juillet 1998, après avoir donné une interview sur Radio Free Asia au cours de laquelle il avait notamment évoqué des manifestations d’ouvriers et de paysans dans la province du Hunan.

Il a été condamné, le 27 décembre 1998, à dix ans de prison pour avoir "illégalement fourni des informations à des organisations et des personnes hostiles basées à l’étranger". Son procès s’est déroulé à huis clos et a duré exactement deux heures et vingt minutes.

Incarcéré à la très dure prison n°1 du Hunan, il a fait circuler une pétition demandant que les prisonniers ne soient plus torturés, ni contraints à des horaires de travail prolongés. Cela lui a valu d’être roué de coups et d’être temporairement placé en isolement.

Zhang Shanguang est actuellement atteint de la tuberculose.

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Lu Wenbin, 27 ans, était électricien à l’usine de coton de la ville de Xinfeng, dans la province du Jiangsu (est de la Chine) et également correspondant d’une publication professionnelle du Textile.

Usine de Lu Wenbin

Lu Wenbin avait enquêté sur les raisons d’une grève prolongée, en interrogeant les ouvriers dans le but d’en écrire un article. Les 40 000 travailleurs d’une usine textile, à Dafeng, manifestaient depuis des mois contre les réductions de salaires imposées à la suite de la privatisation de l’usine qui appartenait à l’Etat. En juin 2001, la corruption et l’incompétence des dirigeants auraient conduit l’usine à la faillite.

Le 22 septembre 2001, suite à cette enquête, Lu Wenbin a été arrêté à Yancheng, dans l’est de la province du Jiangsu, par le Bureau de la Sécurité d’Etat de Yancheng et le Bureau de la Sécurité publique de Dafeng. Son article n’a pas pu être publié. Depuis, nul ne sait où se trouve Lu Wenbin, sans doute détenu au secret.

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Yao Fuxin, leader syndicaliste, a représenté les travailleurs de l’usine Ferroalloy de Laioyang, dans la province du Liaoning (au nord-est de Pékin).

Il est arrêté le 17 mars 2002 pour avoir participé à l’organisation de grandes manifestations, à Liaoyang, qui avaient réunies jusqu’à 40 000 travailleurs d’une vingtaine d’usines de la ville qui protestaient contre les licenciements, la corruption des cadres et l’insuffisance des indemnités de licenciement.

Il a souffert de mauvais traitements avant le début de son procès. En mai 2003, il a été condamné à sept ans de prison. Transféré dans plusieurs prisons, sa femme rapporte que ses conditions de détention ne cesseraient d’empirer et qu’il serait maltraité par les gardiens.

Il est aujourd’hui détenu à la prison de Lingyuan, dans la province du Liaoning, réputée comme l’une des plus dures de Chine et dont la plupart des détenus sont des prisonniers politiques. En effet, les autorités chinoises traitent plus sévèrement les dissidents politiques que les prisonniers de droit commun. De nombreux cas de tortures ont été rapportés dans cette prison.

L’état de santé de Yao Fuxin s’est gravement détérioré. Il souffre de problèmes cardiaques et est partiellement paralysé.


Kong Youping, 53 ans, était ouvrier et syndicaliste d’une usine à Anshan (nord-est de la Chine).

En 1998, il a purgé une peine de prison, après avoir adhéré à la section locale du Parti Démocratique Chinois, parti politique d’opposition interdit, dont une trentaine de membres sont en prison.

Le 13 décembre 2003, il a été arrêté pour avoir posté cinq articles politiques et sept poèmes sur un site Internet étranger, appelant à des réformes démocratiques, à la reconnaissance du mouvement pro-démocratique des manifestations étudiantes de 1989 et à la fin de la corruption des responsables politiques. Cinq policiers avaient pénétré à son domicile pour saisir son ordinateur et l’arrêter.

Le 16 septembre 2004, accusé de « subversion du pouvoir de l’Etat », Kong Youping a été condamné par le Tribunal de Shenyang, dans la province du Liaoning (nord-est de la Chine), à quinze ans d’emprisonnement. Il est actuellement détenu à Shenyang.

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En juin 1989, Liu Zhihua, alors âgé de 18 ans, était ouvrier dans une usine d’appareils électriques à Xiangtan, dans la province du Hunan (sud-est de la Chine).

La province du Hunan avait activement soutenu les manifestations étudiantes de Pékin. Le 20 mai 1989, des ouvriers du Hunan avaient même riposté à la loi martiale en créant leurs propres syndicats indépendants.

Le 9 juin 1989, quelques jours après le massacre de Tiananmen, certains ouvriers de l’usine électrique de Xiangtan ont pénétré au domicile du chef de la sécurité de l’usine, qui voulait les empêcher de faire grève. Ils se sont saisis d’objets lui appartenant et les ont brûlés. Quelques jours plus tard, Liu Zhihua, ainsi qu’une dizaine d’autres "syndicalistes" ont été arrêtés. Cependant, la participation active de Liu Zhihua à ces incidents n’a pas été démontrée.

Jugé en octobre 1989, il a été condamné, à la suite d’un procès particulièrement sommaire et inéquitable, à la réclusion à perpétuité avec privation à vie de ses droits politiques pour "houliganisme" et "graves troubles à l’ordre public" avec deux autres ouvriers. Chen Gang (pourtant condamné à mort) et Peng Shi ont finalement été libérés fin 2004.

En septembre 1993, sa peine a été ramenée à quinze ans d’emprisonnement, suivis de cinq ans de privation de ses droits politiques. En 1997, il a été condamné à cinq ans supplémentaires pour "blessures volontaires" dont il se serait rendu coupable en prison. La nature de ces blessures (tentative de suicide ou mutilation) n’est pas connue. Enfin, en juin 2001, une remise de peine de deux ans lui a été accordée.

Liu Zhihua devrait sortir de la prison n°6 du Hunan (prison de Longxi), située à Shaoyang, en janvier 2011. Il aura passé 22 ans en prison.

13 Forum messages

  • Yann Le Merrer, militant SUD PTT dans les Hauts-de-Seine et fonctionnaire, a été destitué. Une exclusion définitive pour faits syndicaux. 
Du jamais-vu depuis 1951, signant un durcissement de la répression antisyndicale dans une entreprise en pleine mutation.

    Le 13 janvier 2015, Yann Le Merrer, quarante-trois ans, fonctionnaire et secrétaire départemental adjoint SUD PTT des Hauts-de-Seine, s’est vu notifier chez lui par huissier sa révocation par La Poste pour faits de grève. Du jamais-vu depuis 1951. À cette époque, Georges Frischmann, secrétaire général de la fédération CGT des PTT, et un autre syndicaliste CGT, René Duhamel, avaient été révoqués pour avoir signé une déclaration en faveur de la paix pendant un voyage en RDA ! Si La Poste est coutumière des méthodes expéditives et brutales envers les représentants du personnel, un cap vient d’être franchi en matière de discrimination antisyndicale. Car les faits reprochés à Yann Le Merrer relèvent simplement de l’exercice de son mandat : intrusions répétées pendant les heures de service dans plusieurs établissements postaux, prises de parole non autorisées, refus de quitter les locaux en dépit des injonctions.

    «Choqué » par cette décision, le syndicaliste, coutumier des représailles de La Poste, ne pensait pas que la direction franchirait cette ligne rouge. « Depuis 2010, je n’ai travaillé que 14 mois, j’étais mis à pied pour mon activité syndicale ou exclu. Mais là, la révoc’, c’est le pire pour un fonctionnaire. Je ne peux même plus trouver un poste dans la fonction publique. Cela a une charge symbolique très forte. » Depuis la fin de la grève de 173 jours des postiers des Hauts-de-Seine, cet été, la plus longue de l’histoire de La Poste, les sanctions tombent. Quatre syndicalistes ont été licenciés. D’autres attendent encore leur passage en conseil de discipline. Au terme d’un conflit très tendu, les grévistes avaient arraché le report des restructurations et l’embauche des personnes en contrat professionnel. Pour Régis Blanchot, administrateur de SUD PTT, « avec cette révocation, un tabou est tombé. Il devient presque impossible de mener une action syndicale à La Poste. Il faut prévenir 48 heures à l’avance pour ­distribuer un tract, sinon on vous interdit d’y entrer ! L’ensemble des organisations se plaignent de la répression ». Yann Le Merrer soupire : « C’est dans notre pratique d’aller voir les agents de centre en centre, d’intervenir en cas d’urgence. Comme La Poste nous interdit tout, nous sommes en faute en permanence. L’entreprise ne veut plus des militants de terrain, elle veut les éliminer. »
    Deux des grévistes ont fini 
en hôpital psychiatrique

    Depuis 2005 et l’affaire des quatorze syndicalistes CGT et SUD de Bordeaux-Bègles qui dénonçaient une réorganisation, l’entreprise n’hésite plus à criminaliser les représentants des salariés et à sortir ­l’artillerie lourde pour les bâillonner. La Poste avait alors fait intervenir le GIPN pour interrompre une pseudo-séquestration et avait ensuite traîné les militants devant le tribunal correctionnel. Ces mobilisations gênent le groupe dans sa course aux restructurations. En dix ans, celui-ci a perdu 80 000 emplois et fermé en masse des centres de tri, de distribution, des bureaux perdant en présence territoriale, pour améliorer sa rentabilité. Au prix d’un bilan social désastreux entraînant des dizaines de suicides dans le groupe. En réaction, partout en France, les grèves de longue durée se sont multipliées. Aux avant-postes pour maintenir un service public de qualité, les syndicalistes subissent quasi systématiquement le retour de bâton. Plus particulièrement ceux de la CGT et de SUD. À Aubigny-sur-Nère, après un mouvement de 130 jours cet été à l’appel des deux syndicats contre des délocalisations d’emplois, le secrétaire du syndicat SUD PTT du Cher était passé en conseil de discipline pour des propos outrageants et le blocage d’un centre de distribution. Deux des militants grévistes ont même fini en hôpital psychiatrique.
    « Le PDG de La Poste n’a cessé 
de tailler dans la masse salariale »

    Cette répression violente s’est accentuée, depuis la première étape de la privatisation du groupe, avec le changement de statut en société anonyme à capitaux publics, le 1er mars 2010. Un revirement stratégique, mais aussi un changement de priorité confirmé à l’horizon 2020 avec la mise en avant de la Banque postale comme locomotive du groupe, au détriment de ses activités historiques. Pendant dix ans, La Poste a aussi surfé sur le flou juridique qui entourait ses représentants du personnel. Seuls les élus du CHSCT et les conseillers du salarié étaient mis à l’abri par leurs mandats. Un décret paru en novembre 2014 étend un peu cette protection. Pour Bernard Dupin, administrateur de la CGT, « Philippe Wahl, PDG de La Poste, n’a cessé de tailler dans la masse salariale et de sanctionner pour un oui ou pour un non. Cette sanction fait remonter à une période sombre de notre histoire, on ne peut pas accepter cette situation ». Parfois, La Poste tombe sur un os et se fait condamner pour licenciement abusif. C’est le cas de Mohamed Yaqoubi, facteur et militant CGT à Saint-Jean-de-Védas (Hérault), qui avait dénoncé le non-paiement des heures supplémentaires des facteurs. Débarqué par l’entreprise, il vient d’obtenir la reconnaissance de son licenciement « sans cause réelle et sérieuse » par les prud’hommes de Montpellier. La Poste devra lui verser 40 000 euros de dommages et intérêts.
    « Obtenir un rendez-vous pour parler de la liberté ­syndicale »

    Pour Yann Le Merrer, le combat ne fait que commencer. Un recours va être déposé en référé auprès du tribunal administratif pour contester la révocation. SUD PTT et l’union syndicale Solidaires se sont fendus d’un courrier à Marylise Lebranchu, ­ministre de la Fonction publique, pour demander la levée de la sanction. Pour Nicolas Galépides, secrétaire général de SUD PTT, il est temps que le gouvernement se réveille. « Ça fait deux ans que nous demandons un rendez-vous à l’actionnaire majoritaire pour parler de la liberté ­syndicale. L’entreprise impose ses propres règles, à tel point que les syndicalistes de La Poste ont moins de droits que les autres militants en France. » Un rassemblement de soutien est prévu aujourd’hui, à 14 heures, devant la direction opérationnelle territoriale du courrier (DOTC) à Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine).

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  • A 26-year-old worker at a Chinese factory making Apple iPhones died after working up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, his family have claimed to MailOnline.
    Tian Fulei was found dead on February 3 in a dormitory he shared with other workers near Shanghai at Pegatron, one of Apple’s largest product manufacturers, responsible for making items including the iPhone 6.
    A verdict of ’sudden death’ was given in court, but no autopsy was carried out.
    Mr Tian’s family said he worked relentless overtime hours at Pegatron, and his death came less than two months after an undercover BBC Panorama investigation revealed how workers there worked to the point of collapse.
    His sister, Tian Zhoumei, 25, told MailOnline that her brother had been healthy up until his death and blamed overworking for his demise.

    Pegatron has denied a link between the death and his working environment.

    The death of Mr Tian once again highlights concerns over the working conditions of lowly-paid workers feeding the world’s demands for Apple’s products.

    The company announced it had made the largest quarterly profit in corporate history in January, posting £11.8bn in its fiscal first quarter. More than 74.5 million iPhones were sold worldwide in the three months leading to December 27 last year.

    The Tian family were given 80,000 Yuan (£8,300) as a ’gesture’ from Pegatron – an amount upped from 15,000 Yuan (£1,500) after police aided negotiations.

    The family has since returned to their home in Shandong Province to continue farming work. They are not seeking any more money from Pegatron, but are unsatisfied with the company’s response.

    Mrs Tian said that her brother, an assembly line worker who earned a basic wage of 1,800 Yuan (£187) a month, died in the morning but his body was not discovered until the evening.

    ’The company’s explanation was that he didn’t go to work that day, he said he had a cold so was resting in the dorm,’ she said.

    ’His body was examined on the night of February 3 and the time of death was established to be about nine or 10 in the morning.’

    Mrs Tian, who is from a farming family living in Yuncheng County, Shandong Province, was told that an autopsy would cost her family 20,000 Yuan (£2,080) – which they couldn’t afford.

    She said her brother worked at the factory for around six months in 2012, then returned last November.

    ’When we heard the news [of his death] we didn’t believe it,’ she said.

    ’We thought they were joking, but nobody picked up his cell phone so we went to Shanghai. We demanded an autopsy but the police and the company said we’d have to pay for it ourselves. We’re from the countryside, we can’t afford it.’
    She said that to make ends meet her brother, who had a girlfriend he had planned to marry in May, topped up his basic salary to 4,000-5,000 Yuan a month by taking on an enormous amount of overtime, which was voluntary - but the family believe Tian felt he could not turn it down.
    She said the company would not let her keep a copy of his work hours records.
    ’We heard a lot from him about overtime,’ she said. ’The company is definitely at fault. He walked in there a healthy man...as a registered employee he had to pass a full body test.
    ’He last called on the morning of February 1...I don’t remember him saying anything about being sick but he said he worked an extra two to two-and-a-half hours every day. So, around 12 hours a day.’
    Chinese law dictates that factory workers can take on a maximum of 36 overtime hours a month. Apple’s guidelines state that workers should not work more than a total of 60 hours a week except for in ’emergency’ or ’unusual’ circumstances.
    Last year, Apple told the BBC that it found that the average amount of hours worked per week at Pegatron’s factories near Shanghai was around 55.
    However, a report released last month from factory monitoring watchdog China Labor Watch (CLW) showed that in September, October and November last year the amount of average weekly hours worked was above 60.
    The figure went down to 54.6 in December 2014, a drop CLW put down to Pegatron being informed about the forthcoming BBC expose in November, allowing them time to reduce working hours.
    According to CLW, which collected 96 pay stubs in January for their analysis, in November 2014 Pegatron workers took on an average of 95 overtime hours a month: far more than double the 36 hour legal limit.

    The BBC’s Panorama investigation claimed to have uncovered evidence that taking on overtime was essentially mandatory, a claim backed up by CLW and an ex-Pegatron factory worker who spoke to MailOnline.

    ’It’s definitely mandatory...on average it’s about 80-90 hours overtime a month,’ the female worker, who was employed by Pegatron in 2012 and 2013 and asked not to be named, said.

    ’Most people make their living by working overtime. I know someone who did more than 200 hours overtime a month.’

    Kevin Slaten, program coordinator of CLW, said: ’There is a tremendous amount of mandatory overtime. In some cases workers can choose not to do it but supervisors will say, ’That’s fine, but you’re not going to get one more hour overtime at all this month’.

    ’So you have no overtime and practically don’t have a living wage, or you have too much, which can be dangerous.’

    The BBC’s undercover cameras showed Pegatron employees slumped over work tables, warned against falling against asleep and toppling into machines, and forced to say they were willing to take on night shifts and work standing up.

    The ex-factory worker MailOnline spoke to, who was as an engineer on a higher salary than basic assembly line workers, said that she didn’t see people sleeping on the job but did see night shift workers passed out.

    ’The supervisors are strict,’ she said. ’If you’re changing shifts or getting water, sure, but other than that they don’t grant you time to eat or rest.

    ’You’re not allowed to go out of the factory if you don’t have written permission from your supervisor.

    ’I’ve seen young girls getting carried out on stretchers after their night shifts. They were unconscious. It happened quite often.’

    Pegatron was asked by MailOnline to provide records of Mr Tian’s working hours and to respond to his family’s claim that he was overworked. A spokesperson for the firm gave a statement that did not address his workload but claimed that factory conditions were not to blame.

    The statement read: ’Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities, and we work hard to make sure every Pegatron facility provides a healthy work environment for our workers. We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tian Fulei who worked with us as a visual inspector on the assembly line in our Shanghai facility.

    ’We investigated the circumstances of this case immediately, finding no link to the work environment. We provided support and assistance to the Tian family and our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.’

    MailOnline asked for Apple’s response to the death of Mr Tian, claims that overworking contributed to his death and the average Pegatron working hours estimates CLW published in their February report.

    A spokesperson for Apple’s Supplier Responsibility department said the company would look into the death-related claims but refused to comment directly on them.

    Deaths linked to suspicions about overworking at Pegatron’s factories near Shanghai, where around 80,000 people are employed, are not new. In December 2013 Apple sent medical experts there after an unspecified number of workers died earlier that month.

    In October that year a 15-year-old boy who worked there died of pneumonia just over a month after taking the company’s pre-employment physical examination.

    In 2010, 14 workers at a Chinese factory in Shenzhen owned by Foxconn, which also makes Apple products, committed suicide following complaints about conditions there.

    Neither Apple nor Pegatron Shanghai have released information about how many of their workers have died while employed by them. CLW fears that the cases that have come to light are the tip of the iceberg.

    ’These are only the cases we now about,’ said Mr Slaten. ’We’ve seen these before – people who seem fine and just say they’re tired, then they die two days later.’

    Mrs Tian said: ’We still want to know [what happened]. But we don’t have relatives in Shanghai...our power and the company’s power, they are not in the same ballpark. There’s not even a hint of hope we can get to the bottom of this.’

    Mr Slaten said that Mr Tian’s case highlights the helplessness of workers at Pegatron.

    ’They have no choice but to buy into the system,’ he said.

    ’Even when we ask them, "Do you need to do so much overtime?", with such low wages they usually say they want more hours, because otherwise they can’t survive.’

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  • One month ago Chinese President Xi Jinping launched his most coordinated effort yet to extinguish the human rights movement in China. In July, more than 200 human rights defenders (HRDs) were detained, including more than 100 human rights lawyers. All are key figures in the movement for justice, transparency and accountability in China. They are well-organized, well-educated and well-used to intimidation by the authorities.

    Xi Jinping’s government has imprisoned leading lawyers, journalists, activists and academics – those with the reach and authority to influence minds – for defending the rights of others and exposing injustice. NGOs have also been targeted, especially those working on LGBT, HIV/AIDs, women’s rights, and labor rights issues, because they link and empower people across provinces and establish relationships with foreign NGOs and funders, who provide funding they cannot get in China.

    In addition to mass detentions, government media outlets have launched a campaign vilifying the lawyers who remain in custody. Lawyer Wang Yu was labeled a “shrew” and a “hypocritical and false lawyer.” On July 9 she was taken from her home after her apartment door was pried open in the early hours of the morning and her electricity and internet connection cut. Her husband was also detained, as was her 16-year-old son, who was stopped at the airport as he was boarding a flight to Australia to continue his schooling. Another lawyer, and director of a law firm at which a number of the detained worked, Zhou Shifeng, was shown on national television confessing to “unlawful activities (which) have an impact on social stability.” Pre-trial televised confessions are a tactic to humiliate the human rights defenders and isolate them from their networks. Journalist Gao Yu was paraded on television before her trial in order to “confess her crimes.” At her trial, she retracted this confession, saying it was forced. She was subsequently sentenced to seven years. Now, police have promised leniency if she re-confesses.

    The Chinese government characterizes the movement as a criminal conspiracy, trying to delegitimize human rights defenders who have gained public support through their work. The authorities cite fear of social instability as justification for their actions. However, this is merely a cover for social control to prevent the public from questioning the autocratic and often corrupt rule of the elite. To ensure “social cohesion,” the state targets HRDs like terrorists, with early morning raids on their homes, disappearances, interrogation of family members, and incommunicado detention. This, of course, is not new, but the coordinated nature of it is. When one considers that there are only a few hundred human rights lawyers in China, the startling scale of this crackdown becomes apparent. Though the majority have subsequently been released, around 25 HRDs, including 12 lawyers, remain in custody. Reportedly only one of the detained lawyers has been permitted to see his own defense lawyers. This is contrary to Chinese law (and there has been no shortage of human rights lawyers willing to represent the detained).

    But intimidation and violence have not worked. Despite the huge personal cost, these lawyers have remained steadfast in their commitment to their human rights activities. As the repression against lawyers has worsened, since 2012 when Xi Jinping assumed power, so the number of human rights lawyers practicing in the country has increased.

    Since 2012, Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized the importance of strengthening the rule of law in the country. In what purports to be a move towards democratic reform, he has instructed officials to swear allegiance to the Constitution (in which freedoms of speech, association, and the press are all guaranteed) and is pressing ahead with judicial reform to put more distance between the courts and the Party. Yet all are not equal under the law in Xi’s China. The treatment of HRDs makes a mockery of claims that China is a country with rule of law.

    This systematic assault on civil society has not done any damage to China’s standing on the world stage. On July 31, Beijing was granted the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. In September this year China will co-host, with UN Women, a global summit in New York celebrating women’s rights and gender equality – unbelievably the same China which jailed five women’s right activists in March for protesting against sexual harassment. When the international community continues its “business as usual” approach to China, as its human rights situation markedly deteriorates, it does a huge disservice to those HRDs who suffer appalling abuses on a daily basis as they push forward genuine reform in the country. While the Chinese authorities may succeed in silencing some of their internal critics by jailing them, they should not be rewarded on the international stage. For Chinese HRDs, the lack of international reaction is as dispiriting as the locking of cell doors.

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  • Chinese authorities have formally arrested China’s most prominent woman human rights lawyer, accusing her of subverting the state, her lawyer said on Wednesday, as part of a crackdown on activists who have helped people fight for their legal rights.

    The lawyer, Wang Yu, was taken into custody last July and accused the next month of inciting subversion and "causing a disturbance."

    On Wednesday, Wang’s mother received a notice, dated Monday, from police in the northern city of Tianjin, said Wang’s lawyer, Li Yuhan. Tianjin police declined to comment when reached by telephone.

    Wang is the best-known human rights lawyer targeted in an unprecedented nationwide sweep by Chinese police last July, during which hundreds of lawyers were detained. A formal arrest usually leads to a trial and conviction by China’s party-controlled courts.

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  • Twenty prominent lawyers and jurists from Europe, North America, Australia and Pakistan on Monday urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to release a dozen Chinese lawyers and legal assistants held in detention in an open letter published in the British newspaper The Guardian.

    In the letter, the legal professionals, predominantly from Western countries, expressed worries that the Chinese lawyers have been denied legal counsel since their July detention.

    They also said they feared that without legal representation the Chinese lawyers and legal assistants could be "at high risk of torture or other cruel and inhumane treatments."

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  • "We’re worried that they’re still detained," Ms Feng told AP news agency. "We don’t understand how this has to do with public safety. And this goes against what the Communist Party and the government says they want to do to build a safer, crime-free society."

    This year’s International Women’s Day coincided with China’s top political meetings and observers say Chinese authorities often detain activists before the start of major political or international meetings.

    Eight women’s rights activists were taken to police stations on Friday and Saturday, and three were released after a few hours.

    One of those released told the BBC that the police told her to warn people not to take part in planned events.

    Among the activities which the activists had planned were a march in a Beijing park where participants would wear stickers advocating safe sex and action against sexual harassment; and gatherings in Beijing and Guangzhou calling for awareness of sexual harassment on buses.

    She added that the five who are still in detention are either members, or founders, of women’s rights and gay rights groups in Beijing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou.

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  • About a dozen police barged into Wu Rongpu’s apartment in the early hours and dragged away his labour activist wife, leaving their one-year-old daughter screaming.

    “They came into the room and tore through everything they could” looking for evidence of Zhu Xiaomei’s work for a small Chinese workers’ rights organisation.

    Last week, just over a month after she was detained, authorities formally arrested her on charges of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order”, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

    Zhu, 36, came to the Chinese authorities’ attention for her role as a labour activist in Panyu in the southern province of Guangdong.

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  • Round a dozen police barged into Wu Rongpu’s apartment in the early hours and dragged away his labor activist wife, leaving their one-year-old daughter screaming.

    "They came into the room and tore through everything they could" looking for evidence of Zhu Xiaomei’s work for a small Chinese workers’ rights organization.

    Last week, just over a month after she was detained, authorities formally arrested her on charges of "gathering a crowd to disturb social order," which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

    Zhu, 36, came to Chinese authorities’ attention for her role as a labor activist in Panyu, in the southern province of Guangdong.

    The region’s bustling ports and factories have made a huge contribution to China’s transformation into the world’s second-largest economy.

    But as the country’s growth slows and factories shut at an alarming rate, they have become ground zero for an explosion in strikes and worker protests.

    According to data from Hong Kong-based rights group China Labour Bulletin (CLB), there were 2,774 across the country in 2015 — more than the previous four years put together – with unpaid wages the most common grievance.

    As China’s manufacturing hub, Guangdong has been hard-hit by the country’s growth slowdown and had almost twice as many strikes and protests last year as any other province.

    Unions represent one of the government’s greatest fears: that economic dissatisfaction, a widening crack in one of the key pillars of the ruling Communist Party’s claim to legitimacy, might lead to an organized political movement.

    "Labor unrest is one of the things that keeps the Communist Party up at night," said Eli Friedman, an expert on labor relations at Cornell University in the US.

    Beijing, he said, has closely studied how Poland’s Solidarity union movement contributed to the fall of its communist government.

    Authorities have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to prevent a similar scenario, by propping up failing companies to avoid mass unemployment.

    They also tightly control tools such as social media to stop people organizing effectively and have cracked down on groups that threaten to gather in large numbers, whether in front of a factory or in Tiananmen Square.

    ’Conflict of interest’

    The accusations against Zhu also come as Beijing wages a widening campaign against civil society, including the mass detentions of human rights lawyers.

    Zhu, her husband said, only wanted to help employees protect their rights. But in early December, authorities detained her and two other members of the Panyu Workers Service Centre, along with at least four other activists.

    Chinese state media vilified them, with the official Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily saying they had "plotted behind the scenes to organize and control labor strikes" that "seriously disturbed social order" and "trampled on workers’ rights and interests".

    Their work, it said, targeted the government, using funds provided by foreign organizations, including CLB.

    But a factory employee who worked with Zhu and requested anonymity said that she "taught us how to not break the law, taught us legal knowledge".

    "She gave so much, but society has repaid her with this kind of slander," the worker added.

    The tactics have not stopped demonstrations: more than 60 strikes were reported nationwide in the first week of January alone.

    Independent groups such as Zhu’s actually help to resolve strike actions, according to CLB campaigner Geoffrey Crothall, by negotiating with angry workers and encouraging them to focus on "reasonable" demands.

    "It’s completely the opposite from what the government is pretending is happening," he said.

    The state-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions is the country’s only approved union and the only group legally allowed to collectively bargain on workers’ behalf.

    But many employees feel that it has not "adequately represented" them, Friedman told AFP.

    "It’s a typical practice to have the HR manager also serve as the union chair, which creates an obvious sort of conflict of interest," he said.

    Sobbing child

    Clothes and toys lie scattered around Wu’s apartment. For over a month, he has balanced being the single parent of two children with fighting for his wife’s freedom.

    They met at Hitachi Metals, where she was his supervisor. She fought the company for workers’ right to establish a union, a decision that cost her her job and started her on the path to activism.

    Since her detention, Wu has seen her only a few times, and when he brought their daughter to the detention center to nurse, he said, she barely recognized her own mother.

    On one visit, a government official handed him a letter in her handwriting.

    "Don’t worry," it said. "You don’t need to request a lawyer. Once I clearly explain the situation, they can’t make difficulties for us."

    Wu disbelieves its content "200 percent," he said, adding that police have also pressured him to not seek legal aid.

    Police in Panyu declined to comment when asked by AFP.

    Wu has hired a lawyer, but police have denied him access, he said. Now, he is left waiting.

    "My wife helped a lot of people," Wu said, rocking his sobbing infant to sleep. "Including me."

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  • Chinese police have arrested four worker activists based in the country’s Guangdong manufacturing hub, according to lawyers, in what has been described as the harshest crackdown against organised labour by the Chinese authorities in two decades.

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    The level of the clampdown in the country’s southern industrial powerhouse, amid official jitters over a slowing economy and growing labour unrest, was “unprecedented”, a labour rights activist in Guangdong, said. “In the past, they would give us verbal warnings or put pressure on our landlords. But they had not used legal charges in their intimidations.”

    Cheng Zhenqiang, the lawyer representing Zeng Feiyang, one of the activists arrested on Friday, told the FT by telephone that it was clear China’s slowing economy was playing a role.

    “Of course [the crackdown] is related to the economic downturn — but we should not neglect the fact the authorities have never really felt easy about non-governmental organisations … they are always wary of NGOs, especially labour rights NGOs.”

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  • Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have released a local labor activist "on bail," ahead of Chinese New Year festivities this weekend, although three of her colleagues remain behind bars.

    Zhu Xiaomei of the Panyu Workers’ Center was detained two months ago when a group of police officers broke into her apartment and dragged her away from her baby daughter and teenage son.

    She returned home on Feb. 1, her husband Wu Rongpu told RFA.

    "She’s doing OK," Wu said by phone as the family arrived to spend Lunar New Year at his parental home.

    "I didn’t ask her about [her time in detention] yet because we only just got home, and we are very happy," he said. "Her health seems to be OK, and I am very happy."

    Zhu was held on suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order," along with her colleagues from the Panyu Workers Center, Zeng Feiyang and Meng Han.

    Zeng and Meng remain in the Guangzhou No.1 Detention Center, where they have been since Dec. 3.

    And Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Center activist He Xiaobo is also being held in Guangdong’s Foshan, on suspicion of "misappropriation of funds."

    Zhu, a former worker at Hitachi Metals in Guangzhou, lost her job after she organized workers and lobbied for the establishment of a trade union at the factory.

    Since joining the Panyu Center last year, Zhu has been involved in several collective bargaining cases such as the Guangzhou University Town sanitation workers dispute and Lide shoe factory dispute, the Hong Kong-based rights group China Labour Bulletin (CLB) said in an article on its website.

    According to rights lawyer Wu Kuiming, Zhu’s release is likely because she has a very young child at home in need of care.

    "Zhu Xiaomei has an infant child who needs breast-feeding, which is a reason in Chinese law to be granted bail," Wu Kuiming said. "The authorities would have come under a lot of pressure if they didn’t release her."

    Unofficial groups targeted

    He said Zhu was detained in a coordinated operation targeting unofficial labor groups.

    "They detained them because they don’t want people taking part in activism of this kind," Wu Kuiming said.

    Zhu’s main advice to low-paid workers in a dispute with management was "don’t be afraid," the CLB article said.

    "As workers, we were too isolated before, it was difficult to access information and our thinking ossified as a result," it quoted Zhu as saying in an interview before her detention.

    "Somehow we’d end up believing that we were supposed to be oppressed in this way. I don’t think things should be like this," Zhu said. "If you ask me what I think, I’d say we as workers should have dignity and be respected just like anyone else."

    Zhu said she had come to understand through her labor activism that workers can only get the dignity and respect they deserve if they are organized.

    "Collective bargaining has always been the most useful tool," CLB quoted her as saying.

    The ruling Chinese Communist Party is in the middle of a widening crackdown on non-government groups, especially those involved in the country’s nascent but unofficial labor movement.

    According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), Chinese NGOs work on issues that affect millions of ordinary people daily, including domestic violence and discrimination, child welfare, labor disputes and environmental pollution.

    But now, NGOs that work on human rights or civil liberties issues and rely on foreign funding are being targeted for police supervision under a draft Foreign NGOs Administration Law currently in the pipeline, HRW said in recent report.

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  • China has formally arrested four labour activists who have helped workers fight for their rights, lawyers for two of them said on Sunday, as the government steps up a crackdown on activists pressing for change within the system.

    Rights groups say the current clampdown on dissent is the most sweeping in two decades in China, where a slowing economy has led to a surge in labour disputes, particularly in the southern manufacturing powerhouse of Guangdong.

    Zeng Feiyang, director of the Panyu Migrant Workers Centre in the southern city of Guangzhou, was charged with “disturbing social order”, said Cheng Zhunqiang, his lawyer.

    Zeng is one of China’s most prominent labour activists, many of whom have campaigned for the legal rights of workers, such as proper work contracts and social insurance contributions.

    Two other activists, Meng Han and Zhu Xiaomei, have also been arrested on the same charge, said Yan Xin, Meng’s lawyer, and Cheng. He Xiaobo was arrested on a charge of embezzlement, according to New York-based rights group China Labor Watch. The lawyers for Zhu and He could not be reached for comment.

    Both Cheng and Yan told Reuters by telephone that prosecutors in Guangzhou told them of the arrests of Zeng and Meng on Friday, but did not give any reason for the charges.
    Both lawyers said they had been unable to meet their clients since their detentions, in contravention of Chinese law.

    Prosecutors in Guangzhou’s Panyu district did not answer Reuters’ repeated telephone calls to seek comment. The Guangdong government did not respond to a faxed query.
    A formal arrest usually leads to a trial. Last month, police in Guangzhou detained seven labour activists, sparking criticism from rights groups. Two of them have since been released, Cheng said.

    At the time, state media accused the seven detained labour activists of “inciting workers to go on strike”, accepting foreign funding and “disturbing social order”.
    They also said the married Zeng had “at least eight long-term lovers”, a charge that Zeng’s supporters call a smear against him.

    The number of strikes in China surged to a record 2,774 last year, or double the figure for 2014, Hong Kong-based advocacy group China Labour Bulletin said last week. (Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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  • A rubber goods factory in western China has been ransacked in series of attacks by more than 100 people since the first day of the Lunar New Year, according to reports.
    Buildings, equipment and pipelines were destroyed at the complex in Xian, Shaanxi province and products set to be delivered after the holiday were buried under rubbles, Xiancity.com reported.

    Police do not yet know who was responsible for the raids, nor their motive.
    The first attack took place in the early hours of Friday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, when a mob wearing masks and brandishing poles, hammers and crow bars broke through the factory’s gate.

    The rampage lasted for three hours, a security guard at the scene said.
    Soon after the attack began, the factory’s power supply was cut and its surveillance cameras were destroyed, the report said.

    The guard called the police but the crowd had fled by the time the police arrived.
    The attackers returned the next night and again on Sunday, destroying whole areas of the complex, including a boiler containing 10 tonnes of diesel.

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  • Rights groups called on Tuesday for the release of key women activists on International Women’s Day, as five feminists detained for planning a campaign event this time last year came under renewed pressure from police.

    The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network called in a statement for the immediate release from house arrest of artist and rights activist Liu Xia, under illegal house arrest since October 2010 after her husband Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Also listed in the appeal were top lawyer Wang Yu, who faces subversion charges for her human rights advocacy work, and pro-democracy and women’s rights activist Su Changlan, detained for her support of the 2014 pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

    The group also called for the release of Liu Ping, currently serving a six-and-a-half year jail term for sentenced to 6.5 years for exercising her rights to free assembly, expression, and religion, housing activist Jia Lingmin, serving a four-year sentence, and NGO worker Bian Xiaohui, jailed after she campaigned on behalf of her imprisoned father.

    It said four other women, trainee lawyer Li Shuyun, paralegals Zhao Wei, also known as Kaola, and Gao Yue and activist Wang Fang were all detained in a nationwide police operation targeting more than 300 lawyers, law firm staff and legal activists since Wang Yu’s detention on the night of July 9.

    "[They have been] subjected to government retaliation for their defense of women’s rights, housing and land rights, rule of law, and the exercise of their rights to free assembly, association, and expression," CHRD said in a statement launching the campaign to free the women.

    It said an ongoing crackdown by the administration of President Xi Jinping on all forms of social activism had hit women hard.

    A lawyer for Beijing women’s rights activist Ge Zhihui said she had been tortured while in a police-run detention center in the southern district of Fengtai.

    "Staff at the detention center have been torturing Ge Zhihui, who is being held at the detention center as a criminal suspect," her lawyer Huang Han told RFA on Tuesday.

    Ge Zhihui has further injuries to both her legs on top of the ones that were there before and can’t walk normally, Huang said, adding that staff at the detention center won’t allow her to seek medical attention.

    He said Ge had also been subjected to degrading treatment.

    "They gave her a bucket to urinate in but then when she defecated in it, they made her wash her face in that same bucket," Huang said.

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