Chants of "workers’ solidarity" and "Free Yao and Xiao" greeted China’s vice premier Wu Yi as she arrived at Gothenburg’s East India Docks on the final day of her Swedish visit.
Radio Gothenburg and Sweden’s largest circulation newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, reported on the protest organised by chinaworker.org and the socialist youth organisation, Elevkampanjen. The demo was part of an escalating campaign for the release of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, imprisoned for their role in huge workers’ protests in 2002 (for more information click here).
"China has more trade union activists in prison than any other country," protest organiser Kristofer Lundberg told Radio Gothenburg.
Ten carloads of Chinese visitors, including the secretive Madame Wu – who refused to give any interviews during her visit – and the vice trade minister Zhang Zhigang, arrived at the docks to discuss investment and trade opportunities between the two countries. This followed lunch at the city’s stock exchange in honour of the "communist" vice premier and the opening of a new Shanghai trade office earlier in the day.
Kristofer Lundberg told chinaworker.org, "We found about the vice premier’s visit at 11.00 am, and began to call around. Members left school and work to join the protest. The Swedish foreign ministry refused to give us any information about her schedule, but we found out from another source that Madame Wu would be at the docks later that day.
"From the outset the police were very provocative and tried to move us. We refused to budge and eventually a cordon of police motorcycles, police vans and limousines arrived. After five minutes, a Chinese man came forward and asked us what the protest was about. We gave him a leaflet with the text: ’Vice premier you have workers’ blood on your hands, release the Liaoyang Two’. This man is behind Wu Yi in all the photographs in the press afterwards, probably her bodyguard."
Swedish transnationals like Ericsson, Volvo and SKF have made huge profits from the working class in both countries. Volvo (trucks and busses) and Ericsson (telecoms) bosses are notorious for their repeated threats to relocate production and investment from Sweden to China and other low-wage countries. Ericsson has halved its workforce in Sweden in the last four years to 20,000.
The Chinese government delegation were greeted by placards in mandarin chinese calling for the release of imprisoned trade unionists including the Liaoyang Two, against privatisation and job losses and for a genuine workers’ party and independent unions.