03/18/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Dozens of policemen injured in clashes with 1,000 workers in Shaanxi

The clashes broke out in the county of Jingbian because the police wanted to take 3 workers away, for reasons that are not very clear. Scuffles continue to increase between the police and exasperated workers. Meanwhile, independent labor union leader Yao Fuxin has left prison after 7 years.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Dozens have been injured, some of them seriously, and three police cars have been destroyed in the violent clashes that broke out on March 8 between 200 oilfield workers and about 50 policemen in the county of Jingbian (Shaanxi). But the authorities deny that they know anything about it.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reports that the clashes broke out when the police tried to take 3 workers away. More than 1,000 workers surrounded the police, and the first scuffles began. The fighting became more serious after this, and the police used tear gas. At least 26 police officers were seriously injured, and 20 of the demonstrators were wounded.

The local authorities have not confirmed the clashes, and there is no precise news about what the 3 workers apprehended by the police may have done.

The police in the country are frequently accused of arresting and beating workers because they defend their rights against companies, and the population is increasingly exasperated. In 2008, there were more than 87,000 public protests for economic reasons. On March 16, former labor union leader Yao Fuxin was released from prison after serving 7 years for "subversion against state power." In March of 2002, he participated in a peaceful demonstration of at least 5,000 workers from 6 factories in Liaoyang (Liaoning), who were calling for back pay and retirement benefits. He was arrested on March 17, 2002, for organizing the demonstration and disturbing public order, and was then accused of subversion because he was believed to be involved in the prohibited China Democracy Party, and suspected of continuing to organize worker protests from prison.

In the past, Yao was very active in defending the rights of workers, and in 2002 he was the spokesman for the newly constituted All-Liaoyang Bankrupt and Unemployed Worker’s Provisional Union. The protest in March of 2002 was also a response to a statement by local political leader Gong Shangwu, who had said "there is no unemployment" in the city, while about 60% of workers were either unemployed or underemployed.

Now Yao will spend 3 years without any political rights or freedom of speech, and will be banned from participating in assemblies and associations.

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