Greetings to Yao Fuxin, a workers' delegate, free at last!

The “International commission of inquiry of the democratic and labour movement against repression in China” greets Yao Fuxin, workers' delegate who was discharged from Lingyuan Prison N° 2 (Liaoning province) on March 16th, 2009, after staying the full duration of the prison term he had been disgracefully sentenced to: a 7 year prison sentence! Medias report that when he walked out of the prison building, Yao Fuxin  declared: “I did not do anything wrong. I merely acted in line with my rights just as they are enshrined in the Constitution. What did I do wrong as a citizen? It was worth it and I have no regrets. I simply protected the interests of the country and those of the people, the legal rights and interests of workers. That was my responsibility, otherwise who would have done it?”

Yes, Yao Fuxin is right to speak so today, just as he was right yesterday, and he will have to be vindicated.

Yao Fuxin, like Xiao Yunliang and two other workers, was one of the representatives that the Liaoyang Iron Alloy factory workers had freely chosen. The four delegates were arrested a few days after the March 11th and 12th, 2002 demonstrations, during which several thousands of workers marched to spell out their demands (overdue wage payment, unpaid benefits, and getting the corrupt firm managers' investigated). Yao and Xiao were illegally detained without being tried till January 13th, 2003; on that date, a 4 hour mock trial was held during which the prosecutor not only charged the two defendants with “demonstrating illegally” for a labour conflict but “attempting subversive manoeuvres”. On May 9th, 2003, they were sentenced to respectively 7 and 4 years in jail. Xiao Yunlang served his full sentence and was discharged in February 2006.

As of March 2002, the “International commission of inquiry of the democratic and labour movement against repression in China” had started campaigning in the international labour movement for the release of Yao and Xiao. The campaigning was obstinately pursued during over one year and a half and, among others, resulted in the following events and actions:

  • Gathering thousands of signatures on the initiative of China Labour Bulletin (CLB) and of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples.
  • A delegation of French trade union activists travelled to Liaoyang as early as the month of May 2002, bringing the thousands of signatures of labour activists gathered in over 35 countries to demand the immediate release of the four labour activists jailed in Liaoyang.
  • On July 10th, 2002, an international day of action was organised for the release of the Liaoyang Four on the initiative of China Labour Bulletin, of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples. Delegations to Chinese embassies and consulates of 27 countries were organised by trade union activists.
  • On January 10th, 2003, the delegation to Liaoyang issued a new call to release Yao and Xiao after the announcement that they were to be tried for “subversive manoeuvres”.
  • On May 10th, 2003, after the shameful sentence, a new appeal was issued to trade unions world wide asking them to sponsor Yao and Xiao and secure their release.
  • On June 15th, 2003, and international conference of trade union activists from 30 countries met in Geneva. After a report from a representative of “China Labour Bulletin”, the trade union activists decided to wage a new campaign to get the immediate and unconditional release of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang.

Yes, in March 2002, Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang were right. The charges of “attempting to overthrow the power” and “collusion with hostile foreign forces” triggered the jail sentence, whereas, in March 2002, those labour delegates never acted otherwise than to defend the interests of the Iron-Alloy factory. Writing petitions, setting up demands, organising and demonstrating to have one's rights abided by were the basis on which the labour movement constituted itself.

Today the “International commission of inquiry of the democratic and labour movement against repression in China” reaffirms what it stated then in China in front of the Chinese authorities: we are not acting out of hostility to the Chinese People's Republic, but out of concern that those workers' delegates who made use of the legitimate and traditional means that the working class uses to have its demands met, be vindicated. It insists that those delegates' only crime was to defend workers' legitimate interests.
In the present difficult situation that scores of million workers are facing in China, the “International commission of inquiry of the democratic and labour movement against repression in China” calls on the Chinese authorities to let workers free to organise as they will to put forth and defend their own interests.
It is in that perspective that yesterday the “International commission of inquiry of the democratic and labour movement against repression in China” stood up in defence of the Liaoyang workers' delegates and that, today it participates in organising the 15th feast in solidarity with Chinese workers that will take place in Paris on coming April 30th.

“International commission of inquiry of the democratic and labour movement against repression in China”
comenchine@wanadoo.fr - Paris, March 23rd, 2009