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AFT Resolutions

DEMOCRACY AND TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN CHINA AND HONG KONG

WHEREAS, end-of-the-year reports from China and Hong Kong demonstrate that, despite the rhetoric of a new and gentler leadership, the Communist Party of China continues to suppress workers' demands for independent labor unions and to restrict the free flow of opinions and information. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party appears to be trying to extend its repression of free speech to Hong Kong regardless of its promise to honor the "one China, two systems" policy toward the former British colony.
  • In December 2002, The Washington Post printed a lengthy story of the suppression of an independent workers' rights movement in Liaoyang, an industrial city located 350 miles northeast of Beijing. The story referred to demonstrations that took place in March 2002, when approximately 30,000 people took to the streets to protest "unpaid wages, missing pension funds, corrupt officials." As reported by the China Labour Bulletin, worker protests in China are frequent; however, the protests in Liaoyang were unique because "worker representatives" stepped forward to negotiate the workers' grievances with city officials. At first the Chinese officials indicated that there would be no arrests, but within five days police began to put the protest leaders in jail, eventually charging five key leaders with "illegal assembly, parades and demonstrationsâ?¦and destructive activities" including a car-bombing. In a statement about the arrest of the workers' representatives in Liaoyang, the Chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) stated that, "I can responsibly say that, up to now, there is no one detained in China for organizing workers." In December, two of the jailed leaders were charged with the serious crime of subversion. Two other leaders had been released on supervised bail; however, when one of them, Wang Zhaoming, reported to the police station for questioning on Dec. 31, he disappeared and has not been heard from since.
  • In December, the Chinese government closed down more than 3,300 Internet cafes following a fire at a Beijing café that killed 25 people. It was reported that the fire was used as an excuse to further control what Chinese people are allowed to read on the Internet. The Chinese government already uses special filters to block access to sites run by Chinese dissidents and news and human rights organizations. The owners of Internet cafes also are required to keep records of customers' identities.
  • On Dec. 15, close to 30,000 Hong Kong residents staged a public protest in opposition to the proposed enactment of "anti-subversion" laws in Hong Kong. As stated in a Human Rights Watch report, "The proposed new laws under Article 23 give the Secretary for Security wide authority to ban local and foreign political organizationsâ?¦.This provision introduces Chinese law and Chinese political control into Hong Kong through the back door." Chinese human rights organizations consider the law to be a grave threat to the free speech and free press that distinguish Hong Kong from Communist China.

At the 2002 AFT national convention, Szeto Wah, the founder of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union and the recipient of the Bayard Rustin Human Rights Award, talked about the workers' strike in Yiaoyang and increased repression by the Chinese Communist Party:

Earlier this spring, tens of thousands of workers went on strike in the streets of Daqing and Liaoyang. Their leaders were arrested by the police months ago, but no further details have reached us because of the news blackout. In fact, in the past few months, the government control of dissidents and democracy fighters had become surreptitiously even stricter. University teachers were transferred to positions away from students. Liberals were fired from their jobs. Many were forbidden to publish, put under surveillance, or detained. Because of the news blackout, many people do not know that China might appear to be "open" and "relaxed," but in reality the state is exercising even stricter control over its people.

Szeto Wah also referred to the plans to "establish laws against anti-government activities and subversion."

RESOLVED, that the AFT reiterate its July 2000 convention resolution on human rights in China that commits our union to continue "to monitor and protest violations of human and workers' rights in China" and "to continue to work with the Hong Kong Democratic Teachers Union and other organizations that are committed to the principles of free and democratic trade unions."

Furthermore, the AFT condemns the attempt to pass "anti-supervision" laws in Hong Kong similar to those in China that are used to continue the repression of freedom of speech and independent labor organizing in China. (Executive Council)


(2003)