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8 Jan 2023

China Labor Watch

Chinese migrant workers subject to exploitative and restrictive labour conditions in Belt & Road projects, report says

Photo: zhaojiankang from Getty Images Pro, sourced from Canva



[...] There is another, lesser-known aspect of the BRI initiative that deserves scrutiny: labor conditions for its Chinese workers. [...] China Labor Watch (CLW) has documented the following specific troubling issues:

  • Misleading or outright deceptive job ads, pre-work deposits, and harsh appraisal systems, all of which place workers in a fundamentally disadvantaged position;
  • Restriction of personal freedom through the arbitrary use of fines, the withholding of identification documents, the accumulation of wage arrears, and, again, the exaction of pre-work deposits;
  • Threats and use of physical violence to prevent workers from running away, resisting management, or contacting the media or local authorities;
  • Either enforced signing of contracts without workers’ expressed understanding of their terms, or, in some cases, the absence of any contract whatsoever;
  • Workers’ unfamiliarity with their host societies and ignorance of the avenues of legal recourse that might be available to them;
  • Strict COVID-19 policies that limit workers’ ability to pursue job options in China
  • Complicity of various parties, including the local police, hired Chinese ex-military guards, and, occasionally, Chinese embassies and consulates in surveilling and controlling workers.

CLW believes that the following five factors exacerbate these problems: (1) The companies involved in the BRI have little accountability either at home or abroad; (2) The current lack of reach or lax execution of China labor law over international labor rights disputes involving Chinese migrant labor abroad; (3) The general lack of involvement of international organizations in monitoring the BRI for abuses; (4) The political and economic stakes for China and its BRI partner countries which evidently outweigh any considerations of workers’ rights in the minds of authorities; and (5) The relative lack of interest in investigating these issues on the part of global civil society. [...]

Part of the following timelines

Chinese migrant workers abroad and challenges they face

Chinese migrant workers subject to exploitative and restrictive labour conditions in Belt & Road projects, watchdog group says

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