Three factory workers and an NGO worker have been arrested for attempting to set up a trade union in China. In addition to restricted access to their lawyers, the four men have been unable to see or communicate with their families since their detention in July 2018. As a result, there are concerns for their well-being and their access to a fair trial.
Li Zhan, Mi Jiuping and Yu Juncong are workers at Jasic Technology, a welding-equipment manufacturer in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, In July, they and some of their colleagues attempted to set up a trade union according to the current legal framework in China. A few days later, on 27 July 2018, the three workers were accused of trying to form an illegal trade union and placed under criminal detention on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Fu Changguo, a staff member of Shenzhen Dagongzhe Workers’ Centre, was detained in August for chanting slogans in front of a police station in support of the detained workers. All four were subsequently charged for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place”.
The four men have faced continued difficulty in meeting their lawyers throughout their detention. According to Fu Changguo’s family, his lawyer has only managed to meet him once over the past four months as the detention centre has rejected all other meeting requests. Most recently, the lawyer told Fu’s family that he would withdraw from the case as the government would be appointing a legal aid lawyer. There has been no confirmation whether Fu consented to this arrangement. Similarly, Yu Juncong’s lawyer only met Yu once before withdrawing from the case. Yu’s new lawyer has yet to be allowed to meet him. Mi Jiuping has had two lawyers withdraw from his case. His new lawyer could not meet him as the authorities said that his case involves state secrets and therefore no meeting was allowed. None of the four men have been able to meet with their families since their detention in July.
The arrest of the four men is part of a broader crackdown against Jasic workers’ attempt to form a trade union in July 2018 that saw a further 26 individuals detained. In addition, some workers’ representatives were dismissed from their jobs and others were beaten up by unidentified people after they tried to return to work at the factory.
Please write immediately in Chinese, English or your own language urging the authorities to ensure that:
- Li Zhan, Mi Jiuping, Yu Juncong and Fu Changguo have regular, unrestricted access to their families and lawyers of their choice while in detention;
- The families and lawyers of the four men are informed of the progress of their cases;
- Ensure that the four men are either released or tried in line with international fair trial standards, and not for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly
Li Zhan, Mi Jiuping, Yu Juncong and Fu Changguo have not been allowed to see their families since being taken into custody nearly four months ago. Li Zhan’s family only learned that Li had been transferred to Shenzhen Municipal No. 2 Detention Centre after asking the police for information. Fu Changguo’s family tried to send him a letter, but the detention centre refused to accept it. Yu Juncong’s family say they have received no formal notice of Yu’s detention or arrest.
Following the first wave of arrests in July 2018, more than a dozen labour activists and students supporting the Jasic workers were taken away on 9 November. Among them are Sun Min, Zong Yang, Liang Xiaogang, Wang Guixia and Zhang Shengye. They are all graduates from Peking University, one of the most prestigious universities in China. According to media reports, Zhang Shengye was beaten up and taken away by a group of people in dark clothing inside the university campus. The security on campus reportedly did nothing to stop the people from beating Zhang and taking him away. The whereabouts of these five students and some labour activists remain unknown.
Shortly after the Peking University graduates went missing, Peking University reportedly sent a message to all students on 14 November, warning them that “they must not take part in any of the recent activities supporting labour rights”. According to media reports, the note says that “after today’s message, if students still want to defy the law, they must take responsibility”.
According to a public statement of a worker taken away on 9 November and later released, police raided his home at night with a blank summons notice with no details. The policy did not act in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law, which requires police to show supporting documents issued by the relevant people’s procuratorate or public security organ for a summon. Taken to a police station, the worker then endured an interrogation session that lasted 24 hours. The police did not allow him to sleep. They also frequently mentioned his parents and kicked his legs. According to the worker, under the continuous pressure from the police and weak physical condition, he wrote a “letter of guarantee” implicating a supporter of the worker and stating things that “severely contradict with facts”.
In recent years, China has enacted legislation and regulations to protect workers’ rights, but there is poor implementation of these laws. According to China National Bureau of Statistics, only 35 percent of China’s 281 million “migrant domestic workers” had labour contracts in 2016. At the same time, independent unions are banned, and the state-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the only body allowed to represent workers in China. ACFTU-affiliated unions at the enterprise level are often controlled by factory management and have little capacity to protect workers’ interests.