By Eva Cheng
An international appeal has been launched to free three Chinese activists arrested last year for attempting to form an independent union.
A July 16 press release from the Hong Kong solidarity group April 5th Action reveals that Beijing has clamped down on an attempt to organise and politically educate workers in the Shenzhen special economic zone in southern China. (April 5th Action is named after the date in 1976 when the first anti-bureaucratic protest took place in Tienanmen Square.)
The Shenzhen arrests occurred in April 1994, but came to light only this month. According to April 5th Action, Lee Man-ming, Kwong Lok-cheong and Kwok Po-sing were arrested for running an evening school for workers as well as for attempts to organise an independent union. The three have been in custody for all this period, incommunicado and without charges laid.
"The Chinese government has stepped up its repression, for fear that the movement might present a serious threat as social discontent and unrest were building up in the last few years", says April 5th Action. "We appeal to you all to send protest messages to the Chinese government to demand the release of these activists, who had done nothing but exercise the right to freedom of speech and the right of association."
The workers' evening school, started in 1993, attracted a few hundred workers and, not long after, the police, who raided its office in September that year. The leaders fled to Beijing but were arrested soon after returning to Shenzhen last year.
Lee comes from the central province of Hunan, while Kwong is from Shanghai. Both were student activists in their home towns in the late '80s but joined forces in 1993 to organise workers in Shenzhen.
Lee studied in Beijing in 1992 â after working for a youth magazine in Shenzhen the previous year, which put him in direct contact with Beijing activists. Kwong was a leader in the student mobilisation in Shanghai in 1986-87 and won respect for confronting the then Shanghai mayor, Jiang Zemin, who is now the president of China.
Protest letters should be sent to the Standing Committee, National People's Congress, Beijing, China. (Send copies to April 5th Action, Front Portion, 2nd Floor, 103 Argyle St, Mongkok, Hong Kong. Email: email@example.com)
Beijing's recent crackdown on political dissidents, especially the arrests in late May of activists who protested against the massacre in Beijing six years ago, has evoked protests around the world. But the government is answering them with more witch-hunts:
- Tong Yi, 27, the assistant and translator of veteran activist Wei Jingsheng until her arrest in April 1994, is to be subjected to "stronger measures" after allegedly failing to fulfil production quotas at the Hewan Re-education Through Labour Camp, Wuhan. Two police officers notified her family of this measure on July 13, in addition to the decision to deny her the right to be visited monthly as punishment for her "despondent" and "unruly" behaviour.
- Fifteen dissidents failed in an appeal last month to have their heavy jail sentences reduced. As a result, Hu Shigen will have to spend the next 20 years behind bars, Kang Yuchun 17, Liu Jingsheng 15, Wang Guoqi 11, Lu Zhigang, Chen Wei, Zheng Chunzhu and Wang Tiancheng five and Rui Chaohuai three. Li Quanli would be under surveillance for two years, while the remaining five would be detained to be "re-educated through labour" for three years.
- The Beijing professor Ding Zilin, whose son was killed in Tienanmen in 1989, is under close police surveillance and her visitors are being turned away by the police after she recently organised the mothers and wives of the Tienanmen victims to write the government an open letter.
- Liu Gang, 34, who was third on the post-Tienanmen "most wanted" list and released in June after six years in jail, was banned from holding a job with state firms or from receiving financial assistance from outside his immediate family. He must not travel outside his home place in Liaoyuan, Jilin province, for two years, must not speak to foreign reporters or have any contact with "enemies of the state" and must report every Saturday to the police his "ideological frame of mind".
- Chinese American Harry Wu, 58, is at the centre of a diplomatic row between China and the US after being arrested last month in Wuhan, central China. Wu, who spent 19 years in labour camps in China, had campaigned actively against the penalty â which is decided by administrators, not the courts â and the Chinese government's selling of executed prisoners' organs.
- Tibetan prisoner Lodroe Gyatso, 33, had six years added to his 15-year sentence for "instigating unrest in order to overthrow the government and split the motherland". He was found guilty for shouting slogans in Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, advocating independence for Tibet.
Some of the recently jailed have spent years in prisons. Wei Jingsheng is one of them. First jailed in 1979 for advocating greater democracy in China, Wei was rearrested last year following a brief spell of freedom after serving 14« years of a 15-year sentence. He was released at the height of bidding for the 2000 Olympics.
Wei was nominated by 58 members of the US Congress last year for the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize. Before being rearrested, he had been speaking to foreign journalists and publishing political writings.
Two campaigns were launched recently on his behalf. The Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists this month urged the Chinese government to release Wei without conditions. Six Nobel Peace Prize laureates also appealed to Beijing recently, demanding immediate legal and medical counsel for Wei.