| SHANGHAI, April 23
SHANGHAI, April 23 A prominent Chinese labour
activist has been missing for more than 24 hours and his wife
suspects he was detained by state security agents after trying
to help workers involved in China's biggest strike in years
organise their case.
Zhang Zhiru was last heard from when he spoke to his wife,
Xiao Hongxia, by telephone at around noon on Tuesday. He told
her he had been summoned to a meeting with state security agents
from the industrial southern city of Dongguan.
Workers at a Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd shoe
factory complex with about 40,000 employees have been on strike
since April 14 over social insurance payments.
Labour activists say the strike, in the Dongguan town of
Gaobu, is one of China's biggest since market reforms started in
the late 1970s.
"When he went out in the morning he said he was meeting
Dongguan state security," Xiao said by telephone from Shenzhen,
where Zhang lives.
"Yesterday afternoon, and at night when it was very late and
he had not come home, a lot of us tried to call him, but
couldn't get through."
Zhang's mobile telephone appeared to be off on Wednesday
when Reuters tried to call him.
The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is the Chinese
equivalent of the KGB in the former Soviet Union, an
intelligence-gathering agency that also suppresses dissent and
other activities it deems threats to Communist Party rule.
A man surnamed Wang who answered the telephone at the
Dongguan branch of the MSS said he had not heard of Zhang's
Zhang had been closely following the Yue Yuen strike and was
working with other activists and lawyers to try to help the
workers organise to press their demands.
Lin Dong, a colleague of Zhang's at the Shenzhen Chunfeng
Labour Dispute Service Center, may also have been detained, Xiao
said. Calls to the centre went unanswered.
Early last week, Zhang tried to travel to Gaobu to meet
workers but was detained by police briefly and sent back to
Shenzhen, he told Reuters on Friday.
On Monday, however, Zhang and a lawyer involved in labour
issues went to Gaobu and met several workers to discuss their
options, said Wang Jiangsong, a Beijing-based labour researcher.
"That's why this has happened," said Wang, referring to
Zhang's possible detention.
"But there was nothing wrong with what they did, trying to
help the workers."
Zhang is no stranger to pressure from the authorities, and
Xiao said he had been detained briefly several times in the
His labour dispute centre has been forced to move twice
since mid-March and is facing a third move. He said he believed
authorities had put pressure on his landlords to evict him.
The Yue Yuen complex covers 1.4 million square metres (15.1
million square feet) of floor space, according to its website.
In addition to Adidas AG, it also makes shoes for
Nike Inc, Saucony and other global brands,
(Editing by Robert Birsel)