Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have turned down an application for bail by detained labor rights activist Zhu Xiaomei, while a fellow activist has been denied permission to meet with his lawyer.
Zhu, who helped organize strike action at the Lide Shoe Factory and among university sanitation workers, was detained on Dec. 4 on suspicion of "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" amid a province-wide crackdown on labor activists.
But the authorities have denied a request for bail from Zhu, who has a one-year-old baby girl who has never been separated from her mother, a source close to the family said.
"Zhu Xiaomei had previously applied for bail, but she got a letter today saying that her application was denied because she could fabricate or destroy evidence," the source said.
"Originally, the police had said she would get bail, because she still needs to feed her baby," the source said.
Police have summoned at least 50 labor activists in the province for a "chat," since Zhu and four fellow activists were detained earlier this month, the source said.
"Probably around 50 people or more have been called in for 'chats'," the source said. "They have all worked for NGOs helping workers ... and now [police are] demanding that they stop speaking out ... stop helping [workers] and don't post anything online."
Zeng Feiyang, who directs the Panyu Workers' Center near the provincial capital Guangzhou was detained around the same time as Zhu, while fellow activists He Xiaobo, Peng Xiayong and Deng Xiaoming remain in detention following a series of police raids on local NGOs, activists said last week.
Fan Biaowen, lawyer for detained activist Peng Jiayong, said he had been denied permission to hold a meeting with his client at the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center on Friday.
"I got there to visit Peng Jiayong at around 2:00 p.m., stood in line, and then at 3:00 p.m., the police officer in the window told me that I couldn't meet with him, and that I would need the approval of the Panyu branch of the Guangzhou municipal police department to do so," Fan told RFA on Monday.
"I asked them on what legal basis they were doing this, and they said they didn't know, but they thought it had to do with the fact that there were national security considerations in the case that had come to light in the course of the investigation."
But Fan rejected the official reason for the refusal.
"Their aim in denying a meeting is to demolish any confidence that the person has while they are locked up in there," he said.
"Then, they use various tactics, including threats and minor forms of torture to try to extract a confession during this period," Fan said.
But he said the authorities were acting illegally. "There are only three reasons in law for requiring approval for a meeting with a lawyer, and they don't apply in this case, so they are definitely acting illegally," Fan said.
According to the Hong Kong-based rights group China Labour Bulletin (CLB), all of the detained activists had played a crucial role in the workers’ movement in the region.
It warned their detaining activists will only aggravate labor tensions in the Pearl River Delta as more and more factories close down and workers demand proper compensation amid a nationwide economic slowdown.
According to CLB, strikes and labor-related protests in Guangdong doubled last month to 56 incidents in November, compared with just 23 in July.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which has the backing of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, has failed to stand up for the rights of workers in most cases, according to labor activists and CLB.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.