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Prison Labour Regime for Chinese Worker Rights Leaders

Posted to the IUF website 21-Oct-2003

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Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, two leaders of the mass worker rights protests which took place in Liaoyang, China last year, have again been transferred to a new prison, this time to the site of a mass forced labour complex notorious for its brutal regime. The two were sentenced in June to prison terms of 7 and 4 years, respectively for their role in the mass protests.

According to China Labour Bulletin, "the two men were transferred on 8 October from Jinzhou Prison to the notorious Lingyuan Prison, a huge penal colony located close to the province�s border with Inner Mongolia. Many political dissidents arrested after the 4 June 1989 nationwide crackdown on the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement were held at Lingyuan Prison, and numerous confirmed reports emerging from the prison at that time indicated that the prison was one of the most brutal in the whole of China. Political prisoners there were regularly beaten, shocked with high-voltage electric batons, and placed in tiny solitary confinement cells for long periods of time for the slightest perceived �infringement� of prison rules."

China Labour Bulletin has also made available the following information on the Lingyuan prison:

Lingyuan Prison is a large penal colony situated on the banks of the Linghe River in a remote and inaccessible corner of Liaoning Province. It was built in 1958 by a group of 45,000 prisoners working under the command of 4,000 prison officers, and it was developed over subsequent decades into one of China�s largest automotive manufacturing bases � �staffed� entirely by unpaid prison labourers.

According to an article in an �internal distribution only� journal for prison officers that was published in 1992:

Today, after thirty years of continuous building, the Lingyuan Labour Reform Sub-Bureau is emerging as a fairly large-scale site for labour reform. It has six labour reform detachments [i.e. units of several thousand prisoners] spread over an area of 3.3 million square meters and extending more than 30 li. It has a total space of over 600,000 square meters, including 160,000 square meters of factory floor space. Its total fixed assets amount to 147,070,000 yuan, including 1,823 pieces of equipment of various descriptions, 29 special-purpose production lines, 6.8 kilometres of rail lines, two steam engines, a power plant and an asbestos mine�

The Lingyuan Labour Reform Sub-Bureau is known to the outside world as an enterprise bearing the name "Lingyuan Motor Vehicle Industrial Corporation of Liaoning Province." It has been producing "Linghe" buses since 1964. In 1967, it started producing refrigerator wagons for the military. By 1969, it had successfully trial-produced a 4-ton truck, the "Liaoning No.1," which, in a few years, became well known both within and outside of Liaoning Province. It was modified in 1977 and is now being marketed under a new label, the "Linghe." It enjoys an even better reputation than the "Liaoning No.1" and on many occasions has been awarded the title of "quality product" at the provincial level. It 1985, it was the sole winner of "first prize" among medium-sized trucks at a ministry-wide quality inspection event. The enterprise has grown into a multiple production factory, turning out many types of motor vehicles and components and parts�

As regards the reform of prisoners, the control and supervision facilities have gone from simple and crude to sophisticated. Education has become more penetrating. Tall prison buildings have replaced the tents and single-storied buildings. High walls, live wire entanglements, watch towers and electrically operated iron gates have replaced the straw ropes and barbed wires. The various detachments have acquired prison vans, police cars, motorcycles, walkie talkies and alarm systems.

Both men are in extremely poor medical condition as a result of their previous confinement. The transfer to Lingyuan Prison, if not intended as further punishment for their action in support of worker rights, is certain to worsen their already severe medical problems. We urge all supporters of human and trade union rights who have not already done so to sign the China Labour Bulletin and LabourStart online petition calling for the immediate release of both men.