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Mon., Jan. 04, 1999 at: Lon 5:47 p.m. Pra 6:47 p.m. NY 12:47 p.m. HK 12:47 a.m.

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Magazines Set up Labor Party to Champion Workers' Cause

BEIJING, Jan. 04, 1999 -- (Agence France Presse) Several magazines are to set up a Chinese Labor Party to champion the cause of workers, but not challenge the ruling communists, a US-based rights group said Friday.

Shengde Lian, executive director of the Free China Movement, said the initiators of the party were editors of several public opinion magazines including Yulun.

"They have set up a steering committee to form the party. Its purpose is to monitor the Communist Party of China (CCP) and not to compete with it," Lian said.

The party would take up the interests of workers, including China's army of retrenched workers, and protect their rights, he said, adding a Web site for the party would be ready on Friday.

The move followed Sunday's sentencing of a labor activist Zhang Shanging to 10 years in jail for "endangering state security" by a court in China's central province of Hunan.

Zhang, 45, was formally arrested on August 28 after being detained for more than a month, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

Police in Huaihua detained him on July 21 for trying to set up an organization to defend the rights of laid-off workers, an act that "threatened state security."

China does not allow any trade unions or labor organizations other than those sanctioned by the Communist Party and regularly throws unofficial labor organizers into prison.

Lian said the act violated the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which China signed last October.

The government has already laid off more than 10 million workers from loss-making state enterprises and plans to cut six million more jobs next year, moves which could lead to widespread social unrest as redundant workers are cut off from cradle-to-grave housing, medical care and pensions. ( (c) 1998 Agence France Presse)

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Last updated Mon Jan 4 17:47:11 1999 GMT.