- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

China urged to allow independent unions

BEIJING In a new report, Human Rights Watch accused China of violating workers' basic rights with a recent wave of crackdowns on labor protests.

The report, scheduled for release today, calls on the communist government to allow independent unions, and asks foreign companies operating in China to resist official pressure to punish workers who form unions or go on strike.

The report called on the Chinese government to release jailed labor leaders. China allows only state-monitored unions and has harassed and imprisoned independent labor activists.

Authorities have broken up protests by thousands of laid-off oil workers this year in the northeast and detained protest leaders, some for long periods.

Tens of millions of Chinese have lost their jobs since the mid-1990s as state industry struggles to become profitable. Many recent protests stem from complaints that promised severance benefits are too low or never paid.

Beijing announces new financial rules

BEIJING China's Supreme Court yesterday announced financial regulations that would make employees at bankrupt companies first in line for any payouts, state media reported.

The rules, to come into effect on Sept. 1, would make staff salaries and financial compensation a top priority when liquidating a collapsed firm's assets, Liu Guoguang, vice president of the Supreme People's Court, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

Mr. Liu said a tightening of the regulations would prevent firms thinking they could avoid debts by filing for bankruptcy protection and play a positive role in maintaining social stability.

China also would take stern legal action against those found filing fraudulent bankruptcy claims.

North Korean ends diplomatic round

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun completed a whirlwind round of diplomacy yesterday and talked up the prospects of formal dialogue with Washington and the normalization of relations with Japan.

Mr. Paek has been the focus of attention at an Asia-Pacific security forum in Brunei as he staged meetings with a host of foreign ministers headed by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, making light of North Korea's image as reclusive.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana "considers that there is some opening which should be seized," EU spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said after the envoy met Mr. Paek yesterday.

In his talks with Mr. Paek, Mr. Solana pressed for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to agree to a Korean summit in Seoul before South Korean presidential elections in December.

"The minister has not said 'no' to that possibility," Mr. Solana said.

Japan's top diplomat to visit Russia

MOSCOW Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi is to hold talks in Russia in October to prepare for a visit by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the Foreign Ministry announced yesterday.

Miss Kawaguchi, who will be in Moscow Oct. 12-14, met her Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov at a security conference in Brunei, the ministry said in a statement.

The two countries regard the Moscow talks as "a major step" in preparing for the next meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Japanese premier, the statement said.

Mr. Putin paid an official visit to Japan in September 2000.

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