International briefs: China, South Korea, Turkey/Israel


Beijing intimidates democracy activists

During the last few days of October, Beijing detained, interrogated or harassed at least 40 activists involved in a recent attempt to register a China Democracy Party.

Xu Wen-li, a leader in the 1979-81 Beijing Spring movement, was among them. Xu was arrested at his Beijing home on October 27 together with fellow activist Zhang Hui while preparing for a visit to Shandong province to join a protest against the arrest and harassment of Xie Wanjun.

Xie was detained for 15 days in September for his attempt to register the CDP. Following Xie's release, his electricity supply and phone line were cut off, his wife (a teacher) sacked and the family ordered to move out of their home by November 1.

Xu was interrogated for 10 hours before release, a treatment also encountered by many other activists.

Hunger strike for democracy

Armed with 4000 supporting signatures, four activists in Hong Kong started an indefinite hunger strike on October 14 to press for the resignation of the territory's chief executive, Tung Chee-Hua, and the right of Hong Kong residents to elect his replacement.

By October 23, two of the hunger strikers were hospitalised, but the remaining two vowed to go on.

Korean union leader arrested

A leader of Korean Metal Workers Federation, Dan Byung-ho, who was centrally involved in organising South Korea's May 27-28 and July 14-15 general strikes, was arrested on October 19.

Police charged Dan, who is also a vice-president of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, for "conspiring to obstruct business through general strikes".

More than 120 KCTU activists, including 80 from the KMWF, were recently jailed on similar charges, in some cases for participating in a May Day rally.

Send protest letters to President Kim Dae-jung, The Blue House, Republic of Korea. Fax: 82 2 770 0253 or e-mail <>. Send solidarity messages to KMWF, e-mail <> or KCTU, e-mail <> or <>.

Korean unemployment swells

Around 1.3 million workers in South Korea have lost their job since economic crisis hit a year ago, pushing the country's unemployed to a government estimate of 1.57 million, or 7.4% of the work force.

The top five business conglomerates have between them sacked 60,000 workers during this period, or 10% of their late 1997 work force. More sackings are yet to come.

Turkey, Israel sign missile deal

Turkey and Israel signed a military accord to build a new type of ground-to-air missiles, costing US$80 million, the Turkish daily Sabah reported on October 24.

The increasingly close military cooperation between the two countries is seen by Arab countries and Turkey's Kurdish minority as a direct threat.

The Israeli firm Raphael, which produces "Popeye" missiles, will team up with Turkish firms to manufacture a more sophisticated version of the weapon, said Sabah. Discussions are also under way on Turkish participation in a US-Israeli project to build Arrow-II air defence missiles.

In September, Ankara contracted Israel Aircraft Industries to update 48 Turkish army F5 training aircraft for US$70 million. IAI in November 1996 won a US$630 million contract to modernise 54 Turkish fighter-bombers.