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AFP: China labour leader freed after 7 years in jail

March 17, 2009

Excerpted from AFP:

[Yao Fuxin] was detained in 2002 after speaking at a peaceful demonstration involving at least 5,000 workers from six factories in Liaoyang city, where he lived and worked, the New York-based Human Rights in China said.

HRIC said he had been demanding back wages and pension payments for workers laid off from the region's state-run enterprises, and had vocally demanded investigations into alleged corruption by factory bosses and local officials.

Yao was initially charged with "gathering a crowd to disrupt social order," but that was later changed to the more serious charge of subversion, based on his alleged involvement in the banned China Democracy Party, HRIC said.

"It is tragic for Yao and for China that a labour activist who was demanding back wages and pension payments was imprisoned for seven years and abused," Sharon Hom, director of the rights group, said in a statement.

"Instead of cracking down on workers, the authorities need to focus on protecting their basic rights."

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