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China: labour prisoner released, but harrassment

Chinese government releases labour political prisoner but harassment continues

Brussels, (ICFTU OnLine) A labour activist, held in prison since March 2002, has been released by the Chinese authorities three weeks ahead of completing a four-year sentence. However, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has learnt that the persecution of Xiao Yunliang, a prominent independent labour activist from China's Liaoning Province, continues.

According to ICFTU sources, as of the 23rd of February when he was released, Xiao Yunliang has been under house arrest, and his apartment is currently being watched by four police guards and two police cars. Family and friends who have attempted to see him are being harassed and intimidated by police questioning, which has a caused a number of them to turn back for fear of reprisal.

Xiao Yunliang was falsely accused of rioting and leading a violent
workers' demonstration. He was sentenced in May 2003 together with Yao Fuxin, another labour activist, who received a seven year term.
The ICFTU calls for the immediate release of Yao Fuxin and calls on the authorities to stop harassing and intimidating Xiao Yunliang and his family.

"Both these men are in very poor health after having repeatedly been denied proper medical attention in prison. After watching their loved one suffer in prison, it is unacceptable that Xiao's family and friends are now having to deal with further harassment and victimisation. Most importantly Xiao is again being denied access to medical services due to his house arrest," said Guy Ryder, the General Secretary of the ICFTU.

Xiao Yunliang's diagnosed and reported ailments include: cystic disease of the kidney, arteriosclerosis of the aorta, intra-hepatic duct stones, chronic gastritis and conjunctivitis in his left eye. Since his release, he has experienced severe sleeping problems and coughs very often, which is believed to be the consequence of a tuberculosis condition he developed during his detention.

According to Xiao's family, on 28 February, his youngest daughter, Xiao Yu complained to the police that the family could not live normally under such conditions. A police official present at the family's home replied: "If you can't live like this, then jump from a high building!". This comment is likely a cynical reference to a form of action by groups of workers protesting against unpaid wages, who have occasionally threatened to jump off tall buildings if their grievances were not heard by authorities.

Commenting on media speculation that Xiao's release might have been ordered as a political good-will gesture by Beijing ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States next month, Ryder said: "If this is the case, we would encourage President Hu to travel abroad much more often; there are currently several dozen independent trade union activists detained in Chinese prisons".

According to Ryder, the ICFTU will again call on the official Al-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to intervene in the case of Yao Fuxin who is not scheduled to be released until March 2009. The ACFTU has so far never acknowledged countless letters send by trade union organisations from around the world urging Xiao's and Yao's release.

Ends

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