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Imprisoned Labor Activist Threatened with End to Family Visits if Abuse is Revealed

December 1, 2004

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that labor activist Yao Fuxin has been threatened with a curtailment of family visits while he continues to suffer severe abuse in prison.

Steel worker Yao Fuxin was detained in March 2002 along with other participants in a strike protesting corruption at their Liaoyang factory. In May 2003 Yao was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of “incitement to subvert state power,” and he is now incarcerated at Lingyuan No. 2 Prison in Liaoning Province. Yao’s health has deteriorated steadily during his detention, and he suffers from heart disease and high blood pressure. Sources close to Yao’s family say that prison authorities, fearing Yao’s continued influence among workers, have treated him with particular harshness; he is not allowed to talk with other prisoners, go outside for fresh air or dry his clothes outside of his tiny prison cell. Two prisoners have been assigned to monitor Yao’s every movement, even his brief toilet breaks. He is not allowed to read books or newspapers or telephone his family. Repairs have left the prison without heat, but prison officials have refused to issue padded garments to Yao, and have not let his family provide him with warmer clothes to ward off the winter chill.

HRIC’s sources say that prison officials have threatened Yao with a curtailment of family visits if reports of his treatment and condition circulate outside. For that reason, Yao has continued to bear his abusive treatment in silence, hoping that his compliance will result in more sympathetic treatment. Instead of improving, however, Yao’s conditions have deteriorated, and a letter to prison officials by Yao’s wife, Guo Sujing, requesting better treatment has gone unanswered. (The letter is appended to HRIC’s Chinese press release.)

“Yao Fuxin’s health and treatment in prison have been a matter of ongoing concern for HRIC and others monitoring China’s human rights situation,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “As the Chinese authorities still refuse to treat Yao humanely, it’s time for the international community to step up pressure on China and remind the Chinese government of its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, which China ratified in 1988. In the meantime, HRIC once again calls on prison authorities to desist in their abusive treatment of Yao Fuxin and other prisoners.”

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