Chinese workers jailed for attempting to organise

Issue 

By Eva Cheng

The Prison Activist Resource Centre and the Institute of Global Communication on July 4 released information concerning the plight of 25 activists in six Chinese provinces or cities.

Three workers — Chen Gang, Peng Shi and Liu Zhihua, all from the Hunan Xiangtan Machinery Factory in the inland province of Hunan — are serving life sentences in the Hunan Longxi Prison for what is believed to be involvement in protests in June 1989. Chen was sentenced to death shortly after the protests, but the sentence was reduced to life following an appeal.

Three others, also from Hunan — Li Wangyang, Zhang Jingsheng and Wang Changuai — are serving terms of 13 years. Arrested soon after the June 1989 protests, Li was jailed for being a member of the Shaoyang Workers' Autonomous Federation. Zhang, a worker at Shaoguang Electrical Plant, was punished for being an organiser of the Hunan Workers' Autonomous Federation, and Li for being its chairperson.

Zhang called a protest hunger strike with other political prisoners, only to be badly bashed by prison guards.

Ten activists — Liu Jing Sheng, Hu Shigen, Kang Yuchun, Wang Guoqi, Lu Zhigang, Wang Tiancheng, Chen Wei, Zhang Chunzhu, Rui Chaohuai and Li Quanli — in Beijing are now serving sentences of 2-20 years after failing in their appeals last year.

Liu, a chemical worker, was arrested in 1992 for organising two unofficial organisations — Free Labour Union of China and China's Social Democratic Party — and was sentenced in 1994 to 15 years in jail, followed by another four years deprivation of political rights. Witnesses reported that the 10 chanted defiantly in the court, "Long live free trade unions in China" and "Long live democracy" when their lost appeals were announced.

Three others also from Beijing — Liu Nanchun, Yuan Hongbing and Zhang Lin, all activists of the League for the Protection of Rights of the Working People — are under detention after their attempt to register the league, which they formed in 1994, was rejected.

In Shanghai, Wang Miaogen was sentenced to three years of "re-education through labour" in June 1989 for being chairperson of the Shanghai Workers' Autonomous Union. He was reportedly beaten and admitted against his will to a psychiatric hospital for "treatment" in April 1993.

In the giant southern sweatshop of Shenzhen, Liao Hetang, Kuang Lezhung and Li Wenming — all members of the Workers' Federation which organises migrant workers from other parts of China — have been under detention since 1994. Their "crime" includes publication of independent bulletin.

In Jilin in the far north, Tang Yuanjuan was sentenced to 20 years for "counter-revolutionary" actions shortly after the June 1989 protests. Tang was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis and hepatitis but his family failed to obtain confirmation of whether he is being given medical treatment.

Zhou Guoqiang, also from Jilin, after detention for eight months in 1989 for being active in the Beijing Workers' Autonomous Federation, was sentenced to three years of "re-education through labour" in 1994 for attempting to print T-shirts with designs advocating labour rights. Zhou sued the police in 1994 for unlawful detention but was rejected. He received an extra year of detention last year for an alleged attempt to escape.