Letter to Chinese President

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President Hu Jintao
Zhongnanhai, Zichengqu
Beijing
People's Republic of China

by email: minister@legalinfo.gov.cn

date: 21 December 2007
contact: Sam Gurney
direct line: + 44 (0) 20 7467 1395
email: sgurney@tuc.org.uk

Dear Mr President

Labour activist sent to "re-education through labour" camp

On behalf of the British Trades Union Congress I am writing to express our strong condemnation of the one and a half year's Re-education through Labor (RTL) camp sentence for Li Guohong, a laid-off workers' representative at Zhongyuan Oil Field (ZOF), issued by the Zhongyuan Oil Field Public Security Bureau (PSB).

According to our information, some 10,000 workers have been dismissed without proper compensation by the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), which owns ZOF, since 2001. Since last year, representatives of the dismissed workers have petitioned higher authorities and, as a result, have allegedly suffered beatings and detention. Li Guohong is one of those representatives.

The Trades Union Congress was informed that on 31 October 2007, Li Guohong went to Puyang City, Henan Province, where ZOF holds its headquarters, to learn about a lawsuit from the dismissed workers against ZOF. While there, Li Guohong went to the Zhongyuan Oil Field PSB to learn more about earlier detentions of ZOF workers. There, he was promptly administratively detained for fifteen days. After that, he was due to be released on 16 November 2007, but instead, the authorities sent him to RTL.

We understand that the new Chinese Labour Contract law will enter into force on 1 January 2008. Although we remain concerned that core issues such as freedom of association have not been addressed in the new law, we regard many of the provisions in the law to be an improvement on previous legislation. As you will no doubt be aware, there have been increasing reports of mass lay offs of workers by companies in an apparent attempt to shed longstanding workers before the new provisions - which protect their employment status with their companies - come into force, and we welcome the work that the All-China Federation of Trade Unions has been doing in response.

It now appears that the practice of massive dismissals in order to avoid more extensive responsibilities after the new legislation enters into force is being mirrored by more violent means to intimidate and threaten workers who try to resist these moves.

We urge you to ensure that your government and the relevant Public Security Bureaus ensure the safety of workers individually and collectively, who play a vital role in the well-being of local society and the welfare of the workers. We call upon your government to halt the harassment and detention of worker activists and to work with employee and labour groups to address the negative effects of ongoing dismissals. In addition we urge your government to recognise the role which civil society groups - including labour rights' groups - play in the creation and development of a harmonious society.

Yours sincerely

Signiture


Brendan Barber

General Secretary

CC Mr Jiang Guangping, ACFTU International Department

HE Madam Fu Ying, Ambassador to the Court of St James

Rt. Hon Lord Malloch-Brown, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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