Chinese laborers stage strike again

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Nov 29 2007

Published Date: November 29, 2007
By Muna Al-Fuzai, Staff columnist

KUWAIT: The front lawns of the Chinese Embassy in the Al-Yarmouk residential area yesterday witnessed yet another scene of agitating Chinese workers who assembled again in the desperate hope that their demands and rights would be met. It is apparently their word against the company, the subcontractor, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, the Chinese Embassy and of course, the Ministry of Interior to take charge of the situation and solve their problems.

Later yesterday after the intervention of the Interior Ministry, the laborers called off the strike when they got assurances that their demands would be met. Some of the laborers also took up the offer to leave the country.

The strike that they staged last week witnessed an enraged mob of almost 200 disgruntled employees, but yesterday's gathering had noticeably dwindled down to less than half the earlier number. When I arrived at the premises at 11 am, I tried to communicate with some of the workers who could barely speak English, kept babbling something which I thought sounded like Arabic - but all the while kept mouthing the words, "No money, why?" I spent some time there trying to muster as much information as I could and
searched for someone who could help translate, but failed.

The policemen were seen forming a cordon around the laborers, apparently in an preemptive attempt to keep the situation under control and maintain security in the area. The doors of the embassy were conspicuously closed or should they have been kept open around the reception area at least? From what it looked like, the embassy this time seemed less concerned over their citizens' needs and woes. The workers looked upset at the shoddy treatment they received and seemed confused over what would be their next
step, what would their fate be, and in whom to believe or trust.

Although everything seemed under control, I could not see anyone from the embassy around, except this one man who came to the front door and requested a high-ranking officer to accompany him inside. I kept wondering why couldn't they talk with some of their own people and end this mess sooner than later instead? Obviously if the embassy had been a little sympathetic and serious in tackling the issues earlier, I'm sure it wouldn't have turned out to be as messy as this. The police officers too looked on with a hope that this would end peacefully, more importantly sooner. Until noontime negotiations seemed to be still underway in persuading the workers to end this strike after possibly reaching an agreement to grant them their rights. Let justice prevail and I hope that they do get what they deserve - their rights!

The above is an article on the Kuwait times.

This is certainly a shame for the Chinese government, that shows no concern for its citizens, what's strange is if a group of terrorist would have taken nationals hostage, the government would have acted quickly pleading for their release, however when there are thousands of nationals stranded right outside a government office, pleading for intervention, in a situation where they are practically held hostage without money and amenities, the government just turns a blind eye.

So does this mean that only drastic situations get attention? That is if these workers resort to harming themselves or decide to jump off buildings for their rights, it would then get the government to do something, but six months without money, basic needs, and striking for days outside in the cold isn’t suffering or extreme enough.

This is unfortunately the situation, most governments act when its way too late, when lives have been lost or destroyed. There is and has always been ample time to do something but the case is often not extreme enough for the government’s intervention.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East