We Are Sold As “Pigs”—A Testimony of A Chinese Migrant Worker Under The “Belt and Road” Initiative

As a top Chinese national policy, the "Belt and Road" Initiative is not only exporting capital, technology, and labour on a large scale, but also transplanting common labour disputes of domestic enterprises to overseas in recent years. In an article published on August 24, "Voice of America" interviewed a Chinese migrant worker working in Africa, Li Dong (pseudonym), who witnesses the hardships endured by overseas Chinese migrant workers.

Motivated by the ideals to "achieve something big in a foreign country under the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative” university graduate Li Dong, followed the state-owned enterprise Energy China Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau (GHCB) to work in Angola one year ago. But unfortunately, contrary to his ideals, there is a world of difference in reality.

During the year working for GHCB, Li Dong only received his pay cheque once and it only accounted to 40% of the normal salary as stated in his employment contract. Li further testifies that workers are forced to work 12 hours a day with no overtime pay and only allowed one rest day every two weeks. Days off are not given neither on Chinese nor local holidays, except two days of holidays on Chinese New Year. Moreover, the GHCB also refuses to pay medical insurance on the grounds that the company has bought overseas accident insurance for the employees, which no one has ever seen the policy. And cases of arrears of wages are common despite GHCB is a state owned enterprise. For instance, Li Dong reveals that he heard some workers organized protest after they have not been paid for more three years, and although they were able to recover their wages, all workers who participated in the protest were eventually repatriated.

In addition to long hours and intensive workloads, personal safety of the workers are also constantly under threat. Chinese are often targeted in a number of robberies or killings since the end of the Angolan civil war in 2002. Thus, the company prohibits employees from leaving their quarters after work, which makes little difference from living in a prison. Nevertheless, some workers are still robbed on working sites, while all losses must be borne by the workers themselves.

Despite feeling "disappointed, angry, and want to resign", Li Dong plans to continue to work in Angola for another half a year. Because the company will not reimburse the air fare and visa fee until one year and half of employment.

"We are like the pigs in the past and being exploited here," says Li Dong, referring to the Chinese labourers who had signed slave contracts to work as coolie overseas during the turn of 20thCentury, "the difference is that instead of the white people of past, the exploiters nowadays are the state-owned enterprises.”

Source: Voice of America