BEIJING Dec 23 Chinese state media have accused
seven detained labour activists of "inciting workers to go on
strike", accepting foreign funding and "disturbing social
order", sparking criticism from rights groups.
The accusations come amid what rights groups say is the most
sweeping clampdown on dissent in two decades in China, whose
government has detained hundreds of activists working within the
system to press for change.
Earlier this month, police in Guangzhou detained Zeng
Feiyang, the director of the Guangzhou-based Panyu Migrant
Workers Centre, on a charge of "disturbing social order", said
Zeng's lawyer, Cheng Zhunqiang. Six other activists have also
been detained, according to rights group Amnesty International.
The more detailed accusations listed by state news agency
Xinhua late on Tuesday follow a string of "confessions" made by
high-profile suspects on state television and articles used to
discredit detained rights lawyers.
Critics say these accounts deprive the accused of the right
to a fair trial.
"Workers' representatives believe that the real motive of
Zeng Feiyang et al is to incite workers to strike, create a
social impact, interfere with factories' normal production and
disturb social order," Xinhua said.
Zeng and the other activists "forced factories' leaders into
submission and incited workers to surround law enforcement
agencies, causing a very bad impact on society", Xinhua said.
The Guangdong government and public security bureau did not
answer calls for comment.
The detentions come amid a significant increase in the
number of labour disputes in the southern manufacturing
powerhouse of Guangdong as the Chinese economy slows.
In November, Hong Kong-based advocacy group China Labour
Bulletin documented 56 strikes in Guangdong, calling it a
record. The group said this was due to factories closing down
and bosses running off without paying wages.
Xinhua said the married Zeng had "at least eight long-term
lovers" and sent sex videos and "vulgar messages" to women
"As a lawyer, I would like the charges made by a country
against a citizen to be in the courts, rather than handling them
in the manner of 'Cultural Revolution' posters," Cheng told
Reuters by telephone, referring to a 1966-1976 campaign that
convulsed the country in chaos and violence after then leader
Mao Zedong declared class war.
Apart from Zeng, the other detained activists are Zhu
Xiaomei, He Xiaobo, Meng Han, Peng Jiayong, Deng Xiaoming and
Tang Huanxing. It was not possible to reach them or their
Geoffrey Crothall, communications director at China Labour
Bulletin, said the activists were helping workers fight for
their legal entitlements.
"These groups are the ones that are actually upholding the
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)