Prominent labour activist Yao Fuxin was arrested for burning cars, not organising protests by unemployed workers, a mainland official claimed yesterday. The claim was dismissed as lies by Yao's wife. Zhang Junjiu, deputy director of the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), said Yao, who led worker protests in Liaoyang, Liaoning province, was detained for criminal acts. 'I can tell you responsibly that there have been no detentions or arrest in China because of labour activities,' Mr Zhang said yesterday. He said anyone arrested in connection with the protests must have participated in acts such as burning cars and looting. 'As far as we know, that person [Yao] was not arrested because he was engaged in labour activities. He has committed violence like burning cars,' Mr Zhang said. The ACFTU is the official union in China. Any other form of mainland trade union is illegal. But from her Liaoyang home yesterday, Yao's wife, Guo Xiujing said: 'There was not the slightest act of violence during the protest yesterday. The official is ignoring the facts and telling a lie.' Ms Guo's denial was echoed by Hong Kong-based labour activist Han Dongfang. 'This is an apparent attempt by the Beijing authorities to fabricate a story so that they can establish their case that the workers' movement is threatening stability in China,' said Mr Han. 'They hope their lie can paint a false picture to deceive the international community.' In March, large-scale protests erupted in Liaoyang as laid-off factory workers took to the streets to demand back pay. Human rights groups said Yao, Pang Qingxiang, Xiao Yunliang and Wang Zhaoming remain in detention despite repeated demands for release by their relatives and human rights groups. Officials have refused to confirm the whereabouts and the status of Yao and other labour leaders. But Mr Zhang yesterday said the ACFTU always stood by the workers. He added that he was not satisfied with the treatment of workers in foreign-invested enterprises and private enterprises, particularly in provinces such as Guangdong. He said the rights of workers in these enterprises were not fully protected because there were no ACFTU branches in these factories. He said the ACFTU was increasing its up efforts to set up branches in these enterprises to help settle disputes and protect the rights of workers. The ACFTU has branches in all state enterprises. Mr Zhang said the labour federation had 130 million members by the end of June this year - an increase of 43 per cent from five years ago. Meanwhile, Mr Zhang said a mechanism for better negotiation and communication between the government, employers and workers had been established in almost all provinces.