One of China's best known imprisoned workers leaders, Yao Fuxin, is due for release on Monday 16 March, after serving his full sentence of seven years for "subversion of state power."
Yao, 58, was one of the leaders of the Liaoyang workers' movement, who together with fellow activist Xiao Yunliang, led a series of public demonstrations, involving about 17,000 workers, in March 2002 protesting mass layoffs and corruption at the bankrupted state-owned enterprise, Liaoyang Ferroalloy.
Yao and Xiao were secretly detained on 17 March 2002, and formally charged with the crime of "illegal assembly and demonstration." They were subsequently charged with the much more serious offence of "subversion of state power," on account of their alleged involvement in the banned China Democracy Party (CDP) – a charge both men have consistently denied.
Tried at the Liaoyang Intermediate People's Court on 15 January 2003, Yao was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. Xiao received a four-year sentence, and was released from prison on 23 February 2006.
Yao, who is in very poor health, is being held at the remote and inaccessible Lingyuan No. 2 Prison, near the border with Inner Mongolia, with only occasional visits from his family.
Even after his release, however, Yao will be deprived of his political rights (freedom of speech and assembly, etc) for another three years. This means Yao and his family will most likely be subject to constant surveillance and routine harassment by the local authorities.
China Labour Bulletin, a consistent supporter and advocate for Yao and his family, calls on the Liaoyang authorities to allow a man who only sought to defend the rights and interests of his fellow workers to return to his family in peace and ensure that he is provided with the medical care and attention he needs.
For more information on Yao Fuxin's case, the Liaoyang protests, and the mass lay-offs from state owned enterprises in the early 2000s, see CLB's research reports: The Liaoyang Workers' Struggle: Portrait of a Movement and No Way Out: Worker Activism in China's State-Owned Enterprise Reforms.
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