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China's global construction boom puts questionable labor practices in the spotlight: NPR

A Chinese construction manager is seen building a Southern Expressway extension in Sri Lanka in November. The project is part of Beijing's massive belt and road initiative.

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A Chinese site manager is seen building a Southern Expressway extension in Sri Lanka in November. The project is part of the massive belt and road initiative in Beijing.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

A Brooklyn jury heard evidence of virtual slave labor earlier this month – 14 hours of unpaid and threatened physical violence – for Chinese workers building Chinese government buildings in the United States. The prosecution said Dan Zhong, director of construction company China Rilin and a former Chinese diplomat, forced workers to help build Chinese state institutions, including the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC, by confiscating their travel documents Payment forced sureties to ensure that they would not leave.

He then detained the workers in dirty New Jersey homes, "who were held captive by guards who would chase them down and retreat if they escaped," said William Sweeney, a deputy director of the FBI, in a statement ,

Zhong was found guilty of forced labor earlier this week in New York federal court. His co-defendant Landong Wang is currently fleeing.

The case clearly shows a practice of Chinese contractors who have long relied on an informal system of contractors demanding a high recruitment fee for lucrative work abroad. This increases the risk of exporting inferior labor practices worldwide, experts in the work said.

At the same time, these companies have been increasingly looking for projects abroad to stop the economic slowdown and the regulatory tightening of projects in their own country. You will find many possibilities; China's Belt and Road Initiative, which began in 2013, aims to finance and build infrastructure and commercial projects in more than 60 countries .

"Many Chinese companies do not adapt their practices to local laws when they work overseas, the Chinese government has policies that require compliance with local regulations, but most do not have teeth," says Aaron Halegua. Lawyer and research assistant at the New York University School of Law.

China Rilin is not the only Chinese company in US federal jurisdiction this year.

The MCC state group, which sued Shenzhen-listed companies Gold Mantis and Imperial Pacific of Hong Kong for seven Chinese construction workers in Saipan, which is part of a US Commonwealth. The workers claim that the companies have persuaded them to pay proud hiring fees in exchange for high-paying work in a China-funded casino on the island.

Instead, she and other workers say they were paid below the minimum wage and exposed to dangerous working conditions. None of the three companies has submitted a request for comment.

"The construction site was a mess, unlike other Chinese construction projects I've worked on, with garbage and materials left behind everywhere on the job site … People often worked without seatbelts," recalls Ren Zhijie Hundreds of Chinese workers belonged to the construction of the casino.

After the FBI sacked the FBI after a labor death in 2017, he returned to China and is still awaiting the return of his recruitment fee.

Zhong, director of China's US subsidiary, Foreign Ministry Rilin, was commissioned by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help build various state institutions, including China's mission to the United Nations in New York City and consulates in the United States. 19659008 For national security reasons, China and the US allow each other to bring their own personnel to build diplomatic facilities . According to FBI investigators, FBI investigators forced Rilin's employees to do other unpaid work, such as preparing meals for him and working on commercial real estate in New York City Mr. Halegua: "These workers lived in a shared flat and worked alongside But the contracts they signed in China, the security they paid, and the employers' threats to punish those who tried to escape, created a climate of fear and coercion. "

Zhong's boss, China Rilin chairman Wang Wenliang, emerged from the construction of ports along the Chinese border with North Korea.

In addition to building embassies in the United States, Wang also made political accents in America.

Although Wang is a Chinese citizen, his permanent residency status in the US allowed him to donate to American organizations. These included former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, the Gubernatorial campaign in 2013, the inauguration by a China Rilin subsidiary, and a $ 2 million pledge to the Clinton Foundation.

In 2014, Wang Wang granted a prominent Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic International Studies, to open his Zbigniew Brzezinski Institute of Geostrategy. At one point in time, Wang's lawyer, Mark Feng, was Brzezinski's research associate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said CS Andrew Andrew Schwartz, Chief Communications Officer of CSIS.

"Neither Dr. Brzezinski nor CSIS had anything to do with any of Rilin's business activities and were never asked to do anything about commercial activities … we had not been in contact with them for over 3 years," she said Statement. Recalling that the CEO of CSIS, John Hamre, Wang has met three times, but only to discuss the Sino-US relations.

Wang's fortune, however, has declined in recent years. In 2017, he was one of 45 legislators removed from the Chinese parliament for a massive vote scandal. Not long after, Dandong Port Group, of which Wang is the largest shareholder, defaulted on debts of more than $ 150 million and has since frozen $ 422 million in assets because of disputes over its bonds ,

The Hurun Rich Report in 2016 Wang was named the 289th richest Chinese person; In the following year Forbes estimated the billionaire index to be $ 1.2 billion in assets. He made no list in 2018.

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