By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Associated Press Writer
BEIJING (AP) - A court on Friday upheld the convictions of two
laid-off workers who led some of China's biggest labor protests in 50
years, an official said.
The provincial-level People's High Court in the northeastern city of
Liaoyang rejected the appeals of Yao Fuxin, who was sentenced last month
to seven years in prison, and Xiao Yunliang, who was sentenced to four
years, a court clerk who identified herself only as Miss Pan said.
The men were arrested last year after tens of thousands of laid-off
workers demanded better benefits from bankrupt state-owned factories in
protests in Liaoyang. They were among the largest protests reported since
China's 1949 communist revolution.
According to state media, the men were convicted of subversion for
trying to set up a Liaoyang branch of the would-be opposition China
Democratic Party that hoped to challenge the communist's monopoly on
The party was suppressed and its leaders arrested soon after they
announced its formation in 1998. Relatives of the two men denied they had
tried to set up a party branch and said they had only passing contact
with the group.
The charges against them did not mention the protests, though their
families said that was why they were arrested.
Protests by laid-off workers have grown common amid mass layoffs and
closures of state industries across China. Authorities often dispel them
by arresting organizers and offering some concessions.
China's communist government doesn't permit workers to organize
outside of state-controlled unions.
Labor discontent is especially strong across the northeast, China's
former industrial heartland where corruption is believed to be common.
Shuttered factories encircle Liaoyang, about 600 miles northeast of
Beijing, while their former workers eke out a living as peddlers and day
The New York-based group Human Rights in China criticized the court's
handling of the case.
``Nothing in these cases meets even the most rudimentary standards of
justice,'' said a statement by Liu Qing, the group's president.
Yao's defense lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said the court did not notify him
of the hearing, as required by Chinese law.
Mo, who works in Beijing, said the court rejected a request to to
submit new evidence and question the accusers.
``The court thought the case already had enough evidences and there
was no need to have another hearing,'' Mo said.