China stops trade union leader coming home: Labour organiser and Tiananmen activist 'flung out' on his return after a year abroad faces deportation from colony China stops trade union leader coming home

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A LEADING Chinese trade union activist who tried to return home after a year in the United States was literally thrown out of China last weekend after public security officers told him he was not welcome in his own country.

China's decision swiftly to expel Han Dongfang 36 hours after his return leaves Hong Kong with the difficult decision of what to do with Mr Han, a leader of the Tiananmen Square protests, when his visa to the colony runs out next weekend.

Mr Han said yesterday in Hong Kong: 'Maybe it will take me 100 attempts to get back to my country, but that is my intention.' He said he would seek to re-enter China 'by any legal means possible' and would not apply for an extension of his seven-day Hong Kong transit visa. Chinese immigrants who are in the colony illegally are deported to the mainland.

Mr Han, 30, joined the Chinese National Railways in 1984 and in May 1989 organised the Peking Workers Autonomous Federation, the first independent trade union since 1949. He was active in the Tiananmen demonstrations and spent nearly two years in jail, where he contracted a virulent form of tuberculosis. The government released him on medical grounds and dropped charges against him. In September Mr Han was allowed, with his pregnant wife, to go to the US for treatment, but he vowed then to return home within a year.

The last thing Peking wants is any hint of an organised independent labour movement as it struggles to rein in the economy. China's state enterprise workers face an uncertain future as economic reforms erode the guaranteed benefits of a planned economy, and there are signs of factory-floor unrest. Inflation is hurting workers and peasants who see a huge wealth gap opening up with China's new rich.

Mr Han said yesterday he was 'not a confrontational person'. Just over a week ago he flew to Hong Kong from the US, travelling on a Chinese passport. On Friday he took a boat to a small entry point in Guangdong province where he passed through customs without any hitch and travelled to Canton city, en route to Peking.

At 6am on Saturday, about 10 Public Security Bureau officials barged into his hotel room in Canton. Mr Han said the officers accused him of activities aimed at subverting the Chinese government. Mr Han told them to arrest him if he was a criminal, but not to deport him. When he told them Hong Kong would not accept him without an onward ticket, they took dollars 1,000 ( pounds 685) from his luggage and bought him a ticket to Switzerland.

'As they were escorting me away, I cried out as a protest: 'I want to return to my own country, why am I not allowed to do this?' A policeman put his hand over my mouth, his fingers in my mouth to silence me,' Mr Han said, showing scratches to his face.

He was driven south to the main Lowu border crossing point and was 'virtually flung' out of the car. 'As that happened I grabbed hold of the railings . . . police came over and began to beat on my hands.

'I said: 'This is my own country, why can't I stay here?' One policeman said: 'Well this country of ours doesn't want you, you're not welcome.' ' Mr Han said he was 'flung' into the border transit section, just as the crossing point was closed.

On Sunday morning he tried again to enter China and soldiers blocked his way. Mr Han said he would continue to work for independent labour representation in China. 'In China the reality is that conflict between labour and capital is becoming more intense. The situation in many sectors of the working population is very poor indeed . . . (It) will inevitably produce active resistance and struggle.'