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China Labor Leaders on Trial  for Subversion - 2003-01-15

China places two labor leaders on trial for subversion, after they helped organize large worker protests last year. Also, the government is intensifying its crackdown on Internet dissent and underground churches. Court officials in the northeastern city of Liaoyang say the trial of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang opened Wednesday. The two men are charged with trying to overthrow state power, because of their role in organizing demonstrations by tens of thousands of laid-off workers last March.

The China Labor Bulletin, a labor-monitoring group in Hong Kong, say Mr. Yao and Mr. Xiao could face the death penalty. Han Dongfang, director of the group, condemns the action of the Liaoyang court.

Mr. Han said this case shows the determination of the Chinese government to crack down on labor unrest. He said the demonstrations in Liaoyang and surrounding areas were peaceful, yet the authorities have accused Mr. Yao and Mr. Xiao of inciting violence.

Mr. Han added that by arresting and sentencing labor organizers, authorities want to frighten disgruntled workers from taking part in future protests.

Labor unrest in China's industrial northeast is rising because millions of workers have been laid off from moribund, state-owned factories.

Also Wednesday, the New York-based rights group, Human Rights in China, says that a court in the northwestern Province, Xinjiang, has tried Internet activist Tao Haidong. The group says Mr. Tao has been charged with inciting the overthrow of state power, after he posted opinions on the Internet that "slandered Chinese leaders." Mr. Tao's trial took place on January 8, and he is awaiting sentencing.

Mr. Tao's trial follows the arrests of several other Internet activists late last year.

Human Rights in China also says Shanghai police raided an underground church, arresting more than 20 Christians. The group says police raided the home of the church leader, Xu Guoxing, last month and confiscated all printed and audio materials. It said Mr. Xu has been sentenced to 18 months of reeducation through labor.