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China labor activist held over online "disturbance"

Protesters from labour organizations shout slogans in support of the strike by workers at a Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd shoe factory co
Protesters from labour organizations shout slogans in support of the strike by workers at a Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd shoe factory co

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have placed a labor activist under criminal detention, formally accusing him of causing a disturbance after they said he distributed information online about a factory strike, his manager and father said on Tuesday.

The move is the latest sign that authorities in China have been shaken by recent labor unrest such as a 2-week strike by workers at Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings, a $5.6 billion manufacturer of footwear for Nike Inc, Adidas AG and other international brands.

In what activists say was one of China's biggest labor protests since market reforms began in the late 1970s, Yue Yuen workers went on strike in the southern city of Dongguan on April 14, to protest against what they said were chronically low company contributions to social insurance and housing provident fund accounts. Yue Yuen said on Friday that more than 80 percent of its 40,000-strong workforce had returned to work.

Lin Dong, a 27-year-old activist who works for the Shenzhen Chunfeng Labour Dispute Service Center, was taken into custody a week ago, his manager, Zhang Zhiru, told Reuters. Police were holding him on "suspicion of causing a disturbance", Zhang said. Lin's father, Lin Xiaoxiong, confirmed his son's detention in Dongguan.

Lin Dong has been a labour activist for a year and was involved in "protecting workers' rights," his father said.

Police in Dongguan told Zhang on Monday that Lin Dong had spread information through the popular QQ instant-messaging tool about a strike at a Taiwanese-owned factory, Delta Electronics Inc, in Dongguan, Zhang said in a statement to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an overseas-based rights advocacy group.

Zhang himself was detained for two days earlier this month by security agents who told him not to make contact with Yue Yuen workers.

Police in the township of Gaobu in Dongguan declined to comment on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Li Hui; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

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