The report, 'Labour Unrest and the Suppression of the Rights to Freedom of Association and Expression', reveals a dramatic rise in labour disputes and protests in China in recent years, showing a trend where the Chinese authorities have broken up disputes, arresting and imprisoning workers.

The report's main findings include:

· Imprisoned labour activists: many activists have been detained and beaten. Some, usually the organisers have been imprisoned for long periods (see below). Journalists and lawyers have also been targeted by the authorities and faced intimidation and arrest for speaking out in defence of workers.

· Workers' rights: independent trade unions are not permitted in China. Since the late 1980s there have been several attempts to create independent trade unions - all have been quickly repressed, and their leaders imprisoned.

· Working conditions: in the first six months of 2001 an estimated 1,200 people died in 64 industrial accidents. Workers have, in some instances, had resultant medical expenses deducted from their salaries.

Amnesty International today also published a companion report, 'Detained and Imprisoned Labour Rights Activists', highlighting a selection of cases of imprisoned activists – some since 1989. Others have been tortured and are in ill-health. Amnesty International members are urging unions around the world – including the UK – to raise these individual cases.

In one case known to Amnesty International, Cao Maobing – a labour activist in a silk factory in Funing, Jiangsu province – said that he spent seven months in Yancheng No. 4 Psychiatric Hospital in 2001 and was forcibly given drugs and electric shock treatment after he led a strike and tried to form a union to fight against corrupt factory bosses.

Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese authorities to allow the full and free exercise of the right to freedom of association and expression, including the right to form independent trade unions and to hold peaceful protests, without fear of detention or torture.

Copies of the two reports are available online.

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