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14 Jan 2022

澎湃新闻记者 许振华 Xu Zhenhua

Indonesia: Explainer - Why Chinese migrant workers stranded in Sulawesi risked slipping into Malaysia to return home

"For Chinese Workers in Indonesia, No Pay, No Passports, No Way Home", 13 December 2021

Out of options and desperate for work, Huang Guomeng left his hometown in the central Henan province for what he hoped would be a good job in Indonesia.

But once he reported for work at a nickel industrial park in Morowali County on Sulawesi Island, hope gave way to despair. The outsourcing company in Indonesia that recruited him and promised better wages confiscated his passport.

“We come to Indonesia on business visas, not work visas, so we don’t have any legal protection,” he says. “Our contracts are also informal ‘unilateral contracts.’ We had to sign a piece of paper that said we ‘must comply with arrangements.’ Confiscating passports is common.” [...]

On Sep. 2, they appealed for help on a WeChat public account in a vain attempt to convince their company to return their passports. Then, on Sep. 19, their families received text messages that the five men had been detained by the Malaysian military off the coast of Johor.

Desperate to return home, the five men approached traffickers to smuggle them out of Indonesia and back home to China.

“They believed the traffickers who promised they could help smuggle them into China via Malaysia,” Zhang Qiang’s wife Wang Lan told The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication.

With help from their families and Malaysian human rights lawyer Lau Yi Leong, the Malaysian government decided in October not to prosecute the five men. They would be deported instead.

Wang Lan and relatives of the other men underscore that the trapped workers only took such extreme measures believing they had no other way to return home. [...]

Part of the following timelines

Chinese migrant workers abroad and challenges they face

Indonesia: Delong Nickel Industrial Area in Sulawesi