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Solidaritätsdelegation mit den Liaoyang-Arbeitern

Die Versuche der Arbeiter in China, unabhängige Gewerkschaften zu organisieren, werden nach wie vor massiv unterdrückt. Eine Solidaritätsdelegation des International Liason Committees mit den inhaftierten Kollegen von Liaoyang berichtet auf einer Pressekonferenz am 28.Mai in Hongkong von ihrer Reise. Der (englischsprachige) Bericht kam über die Newsletter des IBFG.

Date: 2002-06-01

Report on the delegation of trade unionists to China to demand the immediate release of the Liaoyang 5

(Press conference)
Hong Kong May 28, at the office of the Hong Kong Confederation of trade Unions - ICFTU - 6 pm

Please let me thank you, on behalf of the delegation, for attending this press conference.

First of all I wish to thank Brother Han Dongfang editor of China Labour Bulletin as well as the Hong Kong Confederation of trade unions, its general secretary Brother Lee Sheuk Yan ,bother Michael Siu International Secretary of the HKCTU and director of the IHLO for hosting the conference and for their constant support.

I also wish to introduce the delegation very briefly.

In regarding the French traditions, each delegate is acting in a personal capacity. Jean Pierre Deligey is Deputy General Secretary of the Bordeaux region council of Force Ouvrière FO, brother MichelIkonomov is a CGT railworker, brother jean Philippe Katz is a health worker, member of the executive of the Lyons region council of Force Ouvrière FO council, brother Yacine Hadj Hamou is on the national executive of the Inspectors of labour law CGT union as well ason the national executive of the Public Services CGT federation and finally myself Jean Pierre Barrois representing the International Liaison Committee of workers and Peoples ILC.

As you know we are just back from mainland China where we organised a delegation to demand the immediate release of the workers delegates detained in Liaoyang.

This delegatioin was set up at the initiative of the ILC on the basis of an international appeal of which you have here a copy in Chinese. This appeal was launched jointly by the ILC and China Labour Bulletin. It is now being circulated in more than 40 countries round the world and has already gathered thousands of endorsement in the labour movement on the international level.

We had set two objectives to our delegation. Firstly, to meet the local government to express the demand of the international Labour movement that the Liaoyang workers be immediately released. Secondly , if possible, to go to the prison to express the same demand.

The Liaoyang workers have been fighting for weeks and weeks now, since the month of March, in order to be able to organise themselves, inorder to promote their demands. They have been using the legitimate and traditional means of the labour movement in each and every country. The Liaoyang workers have not commited anything illegal by international law. They have not comited any crimes.

They are simply demanding that their fellow workers detained be released , that their unemployment allowances be paid, they are defending the jobs threatened by the WTO China accord. Many more workers' jobs are threatened . We heard that 540 000 workers are immediately threatened of losing their jobs in the neighbouring region of Dacin as the direct consequence of the introduction of american oil on the Chinese market. Just imagine how many more workers will be made redundant in order to face the competion, how many more factories will be closed in the Liaoning region.

That's exactly what happened inLiaoyang. So, the workers decided to defend themselves, to defend their own lives, in order to survive. This is the legitimate struggle of the workers in every country where they are faced withthe consequences of globalisation: in France, in the US , everywhere.

In order to do it, workers need an instrument, they need independent trade unions. If they don't have independent unions they cannot defend themselves. The problem which is raised by the Liaoyang workers is the question of the nature of the instrument to defend themselves.They are demanding the right to organise in independent unions. At the center of their struggle stands the question of the two ILO Conventions 87 and 98 codifying the rights to come together, to organise, to strike in order to negotiate.

The Liaoyang struggle in not only symbolic of the struggle of all the Chinese workers but also of all the workers round the world who need free, independent trade unions. That is why we decided to go to Liaoyang . We had no illegal purposes. We had no hostility towards the People's Republic of China nor towards the Chinese Peolple.

Around the world thousands of workers have signed the appeal saying "an injury to one is an injury to all", their struggle is legitimate, the emprisonment in not legitimate. So we went to Liaoyang. As soon as we got off the train we were immediately followed, filmed and photographed. 20 minutes later, the security forces came to us and asked a question that we were to hear again later: "Excuse me Sir, may we have a word with you? " and the word is " Can you show us your passports ?". So we were all taken to a hotel room. The first thing we asked was " Are we under arrest "?. They said no, we said "can we leave" ? they said no.

When we said we wished to meet the local authorities, a man called Mr Liu who introduced himself as the officer in charge said "you are not to meet the local authorities because they are not authorised to take any position regardingthe release of the detained workers". He said we had to go to the provincial government based in Shenyang where we were coming from. We asked if we could go to the prison . Wereceived the same answer. The interpreter said " It is significant that you ask to see the local authorities and to go to the prison and do not ask to visit the trade unions, but in any case you won't see anybody.

When we said " So what can we do ? Are we free to walk around or are we under arrest ? " he repeated we were not under arrest . So we said again " Well, we are leaving ". He said "no, you can't". The first version was that the town had been forbidden to foreigners since March. The second version was " It is forbidden to you " but the reason why was not given.

They finally came to the point saying that " considering that you are not allowed to go to the local government office, considering you are not allowed to go to the prison, considering that you would be allowed to go out as tourists but that there is nothing interesting to be seen in this town, the only thing you have to do is to go back to Shenyang, this is why we have prepared a mini bus, please follow us we are going to drive you back ". So we were driven back to our hotel in Shenyang by the Security.

But before leaving the room we gave Mr Liu three copies of the international appeal in Chinese with all the endorsements and asked him to convey it to the authorities. We said " We are not here in a personal capacity, we are representing the endorsers, we are representing workers, trade unionists, people fighting for civil rightswho around the world have signed this appeal". We said " Do you know that in Europe everybody in the labour movement knows about Liaoyang ?". The interpreter for the security - a woman - replied " yes I went to Europe a week ago and people told me about it" . On the way back to the hotel we insisted that we wished to see the provincial authorities. Mr Liu said that he would call them and would get back to me to tell us whether we will be received and if so who will meet us. We set a time limit saying that if I had not received his call the morning after by 10 o'clock, we would go and find the provincial government by ourselves because we had a mandate from the thousands of workers who around the world have endorsed the international appeal, we have a comitment and will go to express the demand that the 5 be released. He said OK I will.

Next mrning by 9.30, suddenly the provincial security came to the hotel, asked the now famous questions " Excuse me Sir, may we have a word with you?" Can you show usyour passports ?" and the whole scenario repeated itself but this time they tried to explain that we had come illegally to China. They photocopied our passports, sent them to the Consulate in Paris , we had to wait some time to be said that these visas were not fake, that we were legal in China.

They changed position saying that with a tourist - a Lvisa - we had no right to meet the authorities local or provincial nor to go to the prison which required another kind of visa. We ewplained that there are several types of visas : for air stewards, students, businessmen, diplomats and that we did not belong to any of these categories and consequently the only kind of visa we could apply for was a L visa. We saidthat a month ago when a delegation of the French labour movement was received at the Chinese ambassy in Paris to demand the release of the Liaoyang 5, we asked if a delegation could go and visit the prisoners. The First secretary of the ambassy Mr Zhang replied " Anybody can apply for a visa ". After a long discussion they had to tell the truth.

They replied " OK you are here legally, you have not done anything illegal but you won't see anybody because we, the police, decide that you won't -is that clear ?" . It was , indeed. We said " You are taking a huge responsability because all those who have endorsed this appeal are expecting a report and, believe us, we will deliver our report, to the unions, to all those who have signed, to the press,we will explain what we were told in Liaoyang, we will explain that you prevented us from meeting the authorities". Finally the officer said " we will keep watching you, you can go and have a walk, go to a coffee shop but if you do try to meet the authorities yo will have big problems, the best bet for you is to go to the station and take the train back to Beijin".

Which we did because we had not come to create any kind of incident. Now we have to draw the lessons of what happened. As I said earlier, the delegation was in no way hostile to the people's republic of China nor to the Chinese People.

We were not there to create any kind of trouble or incident but simply to convey the demand of the international labour movement that the Liaoyang 5 fighting to set up independent , free trade unions in application of ILO convention 87 and 98 should be released. In these conditions we considered that the message had been conveyed to the authorities and that we should leave. Let me add two comments . In Liaoyang the interpreter told us that she had heard about the Liaoyang workers when she went to Eutrope, this is a first indication. When she added that it was significant to her that we had not applied to see the official union , it was a second indication. We stressed that it was a legal case but in her mind it was the official union which should co-decide whether the workers should remain in prison or not. This shows how important the struggle to help independent trade unions is.

The good news came today from Brother Han Dongfang, confirming that the message had been conveyed when he informed us that he learned that people in Lioyang now know that the foreign delegation was in town, that the delegation had problems and had to leave the town. The rumour is now speading around the town. Everybody will soon know it. The message that in the rest of the world there is a campaign to release the Liaoyang 5 has reached the population despite the obstacles set by the police. It is a victory.

What they have been trying to do is to isolate, not us, but the Lioyang workers from the rest of the world. What they wanted to organise was a barrier, a wall to isolate the Chinese workers because they know that what is at stake in Liaoyang is the fight for convention 87 and 98 which also links up with the fight of all workers round the world who are faced with the consequences of WTO's policies.

On our way back to Beijing my friends and I had plenty of time, we had a discussion, we came to the conclusion that far from being the end of the campaign, we had now reached a new starting point. The delegation to Liaoyang should be considered as a starting point to broaden the campaign, to get more people involved . We wish to pledge here that the fight will not end until the workers detained in Liaoyang are released. This is a comitment. We will do it by broadening the campaign. There will be a second delegation. We will appeal to reprentatives of the labour movement round the world, in the US, in the UK, in other countries. We will broaden the campaign. In order to do it we decided to constitute ourselves, the five of us into a preparatory committee to a second international delegation of the labour movement and on the train we drafted an appeal that will be circulated to you as soon as it is typed.

This appeal telling the whole story is also an appeal to the workers of the world informing that we have constituted ourselves into a preparatory committee to the next delegation and appealing to support the struggle for the ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 by China. We appealon workers and trade unionists in everty country to join the committee which is open to everyone.

As a conclusion, as I said in the introduction I represent here the International Liaison Committee of workers and peoples, the ILC. The fight in defence of ILO conventions is central to the activity of the ILC. The ILC has convened an international Conference of trade unionists in defence of ILO conventions to take place in Geneva on June 16 at the time when the annual assdembly of the ILO takes place.

The report on the delegation in China will be delivered at this conference convened by the ILC in Geneva. This conference will be a leaning point, a stepping stone to broaden the campaign round the world to endure that a second delegation will be set up. We appeal on all trade unionists, all participants in the workers group representatives at the ILO annual assemble to support and participate in the june 16 meeting.

I thank you very much.

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