An angry Chinese boss is yelling at his African employees as they take a lunch break, urging them to work harder otherwise the company won’t make any money. While intended to be funny, Egypt’s new TV ad – pulled since fear of humiliating Beijing – led to widely held African assumptions about the way Chinese companies on the continent treat their local employees. reveals to.
Last month, a Rwanda court sentenced mine manager Sun Shujun to 20 years in prison, making a significant statement against abuse of its citizens after a video of him thrashing a tied worker went viral.
The case sparked outrage across the continent and even elicited a rare backlash from the Chinese embassy in Kigali, which warned its citizens in Rwanda “to comply with local laws and regulations”.
The Rwanda incident is not the only example of recent Chinese rights abuses in Africa. A report last year by the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Center found that between 2013 and 2020 there were 181 human rights allegations involving Chinese investments in Africa, with Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo most incidents. ,
Last year a Kenyan waiter was awarded more than $25,000 in damages after being lashed out by his Chinese restaurant owner. The abuse was captured on video and the boss was shown laughing while the waiter begged for forgiveness. A Kenyan court found that the man had also faced “persistent sexual harassment, corporal punishment, verbal abuse and imprisonment” while working at the restaurant.
There have also been reports of abuse by Chinese employers of locals working on Chinese-built railways in Kenya in 2018. Standard Newspaper. Separately, a Chinese businessman was deported in 2018 in a highly publicized case after using racial slurs against Kenyans, including calling the president a “monkey”.
Due to its vast mineral wealth and large number of sugar-managed mines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is another country where rights abuses are regularly reported. On Wednesday, a Congolese investigative journalist released a report detailing how small-scale Chinese cobalt miners are using child labor.
Josu Kashal, a lawyer for Congolese NGO Le Center d’Ed Juridico-Judicire, represented a local mine worker who was injured in an accident at the Kisanfu cobalt and copper mine in China’s molybdenum earlier this year. A landmark court decision ordered the mine to pay the worker’s hospital costs and lost wages.
“There are a lot of violations of workers’ rights,” he told the VOA, adding that local miners in the DRC are paid small salaries and have less protective equipment.
In Zimbabwe, too, abuses by Chinese employers of local workers have been recorded, with one of the most serious examples in 2020, when a Chinese employer, Zhang Xuen, confronted two Zimbabwean workers after a wage dispute at a mine in a Zimbabwean city. was shot and seriously injured. Gweru. Zhang was charged with attempted murder and the case is still pending.
The Chinese national was taken to court and the embassy in Harare said it was “highly concerned” about the shooting, but insisted it was “an isolated incident”. The embassy’s statement continued, “Persons who commit any potentially illegal act and violate the law should not be spared.”
Shamiso Matsi, deputy director of the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), disagrees with the embassy’s statement and says the incident was isolated. He said there is a pattern of abuse by Chinese employers in Zimbabwe.
“ZELA is aware of several cases of abuse of Zimbabwean workers by Chinese employers, and this occurs regularly at some Chinese mining companies,” he told VOA. “I think the problem is that they consider themselves superior.”
Matisi said workers in Chinese-owned mines in the country are paid low wages and are provided with poor personal protective equipment. However, he said, it is up to the Zimbabwean government to maintain workplace standards and protect its citizens, and says they have failed to do so because China is the country’s largest foreign investor.
“The challenge is that the Chinese are getting some protection from the government or some politicians, so they usually get away with it,” he said.
With the Belt and Road Initiative, the trademark of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the Chinese are huge players on the continent. The rival superpower United States is vying for influence with African leaders who support Beijing’s no-strings-attached approach, providing loans without looking at the countries’ human rights issues.
But a public raft of abuses by Chinese employers on the continent has prompted the Chinese government to respond.
The Chinese embassy in Namibia this week published a guide for Chinese expatriates in the southern African country on its WeChat page explaining best practices and how to avoid violations when working abroad.
This includes how to deal with wage disputes with local workers, not branding firearms to intimidate employees, advising not to “intimidate or coerce” striking workers, and always involve local authorities instead of taking it into their own hands. involved in handling such cases.
And it seems that some Chinese citizens living on the continent are also concerned about the behavior of their compatriots. An anonymous blogging person named “Africa Bob”, who says he is a business owner in Rwanda, recently took to Wexin to express his disgust at the flogging case and Sun Shujun’s actions .
“In this case, Mr. Sun of China is indeed doing something wrong. Now we are in another country, and the first thing we must do is comply with local laws and regulations,” he wrote. But he continued to write , “The sentence is really too many.”
“Africa Bob” then wrote a list of suggestions for good behavior for Chinese citizens living on the continent, urging his compatriots not to be racist.
“There are so many outstanding people in Africa… there are many excellent people, how can you arbitrarily say that Africans are not hardworking?” They said. “I hope that one day we (the Chinese) can be respected in Africa … and that requires the efforts of every Chinese in Africa.”