Chinese infrastructure projects in African countries have often been marred by cases of abuse of local labourers. Abuses include physical assault, unpaid wages, wages below contract pay, unsafe working conditions, brutally long hours and involuntary confinement.
A recent case that has come to light is that of a Tanzanian woman. On March 18, 2023, the woman, named Lucy Paulo, was assaulted by a Chinese national, Zheng Yuan Fen. She sustained serious injuries and was taken to Bugando hospital. She worked as a cook in Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in their Fela project camp in Mwanza region. The Chinese national was arrested and initially detained at the Railway Police Station before being transferred to Misungwi District Police Station. On March 24, 2023, he was brought to the Misungwi District Court on charges of wounding the woman. Case No. 44 of 2023 was registered against him. Currently, he is in custody of Misungwi Police Station after being denied bail.
The Chinese contractor companies i.e. China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), and China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), which are the contractor for the SGR, have been asked to ensure that Lucy Paulo get the employment benefits as applicable and allowed to work independently throughout the project.
Above is the not the first case of Chinese project managers ill-treating local employees. In September 2022, a Chinese-run gold mining company operating in the Odzi peri-urban area of Mutare district in Zimbabwe was accused of ill-treating workers and flouting the country’s labour laws and regulations. A former worker claimed that he was sacked after he, along with others, had begged Chinese managers to provide them with protective gear, decent meals and accommodation while on duty. General hand workers were being forced to work in the mine without any protective gear and were exposed to hazardous chemicals. The workers, who sustained injuries due to lack of protective gear, were given US$ 10 each to keep mum and not reveal anything.
In another case in February 2021, a Bangladeshi man named Jubayer, who was working at the under-construction Lebukhali Bridge area over the Payra river, was assaulted by Chinese workers and project manager. They allegedly beat him up for not wearing a mask while working at the site.
Chinese entities are known to circumvent local laws that regulate health and safety issues. The governments must establish laws that bind Chinese investors to sign agreements pledging to abide by country’s legislations and protect local workers. Any act or activity aimed at bringing violence and harassing workers should be condemned in all forms.