Ambassador Jiechi Yang
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

The UAW strongly protests the harsh prison sentences imposed by a Chinese court on Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang today. Yao Fuxin now faces seven years in prison and Xiao four years in prison on charges of subversion for their role in the peaceful demonstrations by workers from the Ferro-Alloy factory in Liaoyang.

China's repressive actions in this case treat the normal exercise of internationally recognized labor rights as the criminal act of subversion. The convictions of Yao and Xiao effectively criminalize the rights that virtually all civilized countries acknowledge and protect, such as freedom of association and freedom of assembly. With this decision, China has sent a chilling message to millions of workers that peaceful labor protest will end in subversion trials and long prison sentences.

The Chinese government's actions in the case raise questions about the legitimacy of China's status as a member of international organizations, including the International Labor Organization and of the World Trade Organization. To function as a credible and respected member of the world community, China needs to make progress toward respecting the rule of law and to honor well-established norms, such as the ILO's internationally recognized labor rights. I'm sure you know that the ILO some weeks ago called upon Chinese authorities to release all Liaoyang workers still in detention and to drop any outstanding charges against them.

The UAW believes the harsh prison terms handed down against Yao and Xiao raise further questions about the decision of the International Olympic Committee to grant Beijing the privilege of hosting the 2008 summer Olympic games. As you know, the world athletic community had the expectation that the Chinese government would respond to this honor by seriously reducing the regime's violations of human rights. The seven-year prison term handed down today against Yao Fuxin means he will still be jailed when the 2008 Olympics are scheduled to be held in Beijing. This alone is sufficient cause for the International Olympic Committee to revisit the decision to award China the 2008 summer games.

On behalf of 1.3 million active and retired members of the UAW, I call upon your government to immediately and unconditionally release Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang. I also strongly urge China to halt the outrageous and continuing repression of workers seeking to exercise internationally recognized labor rights.

Ron Gettelfinger
President UAW