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    » 03/12/2008, 00.00

    CHINA

    Olympic projects built with "the blood" of migrant workers



    Human Rights Watch has interviewed migrant workers who built the "new" Beijing. There emerges a picture of widespread exploitation, without hope of redress. On the protection of migrants, the Chinese government is considered "all talk and no action", and the IOC is called upon to explain what it has done.

    Beijing (AsiaNews/HRW) - The grandiose Olympic projects and the new face of the city of Beijing are the work of an army of migrant workers exploited by their employers. They "work in dangerous conditions, have no access to medical treatment and often go unpaid".  Human Rights Watch denounces today, in the report "One Year of My Blood", an "ordinary" history of exploitation, amid the indifference of the government and of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

    Approximately one million migrant workers participated in the projects, 90% of the entire labour force used.  The study gathered many of their testimonies.  A grim picture emerges: they work with no contracts, sometimes for 16 hours a day, for pay lower than the legal minimum, without any holidays or weekly days off.  One migrant says that for the "normal" 10-16 hours of work per day, 360 days a year, he received 60 yuan (8 dollars) a day, while the minimum legal payment is 75 yuan for 10 hours, and 136 for 16 hours of work in one day.

    At least half of the labourers say that their employer was always late with payment, sometimes by months, and many were paid less than the agreed amount, or not all.  And it is difficult for migrants to ask for justice, because they have no contract and they are not registered as residents of Beijing.  For the same reason, they have no health care.  Many of their employers put them in dormitories without heat, electricity, or drinking water, or in tents on the construction site.

    Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for HRW, denounces the absence of official supervision and says that in terms of the rights of migrant workers, "the Chinese government is all talk and no action". HRW also recalls that the IOC is responsible for overseeing labour conditions for Olympic projects, and calls upon the body to release its findings.  In January, Beijing at first denied and then admitted to six fatal accidents in the course of these projects.  If the IOC "really prides itself on its dedication to ‘fundamental universal ethical principles'", Richardson says, "then the International Olympics Committee must ensure that workers who help build Beijing’s Olympic venues are at least treated fairly and in accordance with Chinese law and . . . fundamental international human rights standards".

    The spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Qin Gang, replied at a press conference that HRW "has a problem with vision but is unwilling to wear glasses". But no comment on the many accusations.

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    See also

    27/02/2008 CHINA
    IOC advisor: the Olympics are an opportunity for respect of human rights
    Even if improvements are not seen yet, there is the conviction that China will do something to improve its image. Meanwhile, the government tells Rice that it is "ready to resume talks" with the U.S. on respect for rights.

    09/08/2007 CHINA
    Beijing more concerned about pollution than criticism about its human rights record
    Yesterday’s pre-Olympic events in Tiananmen Square were full of shows and leaders’ speeches stressing national pride and world solidarity. Major anti-pollution measures are planned for the Games but endurance events might have to be moved. Pro-human rights in China demonstrations take place around the world.

    21/02/2008 CHINA
    According to Beijing Spielberg is “naïve” and lacking in “common sense”
    Controversy with filmmaker continues after he pulled out of the Olympics in protest against Chinese policy towards Darfur. Government defends its action, concerned that international criticism might grow.

    14/02/2008 CHINA
    State media claim Chinese “disgusted” by Spielberg’s boycott
    For the Chinese Embassy in Washington, tying China to the Darfur issue is “unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair.” IOC President Jacques Rogge signs Nobel Prize laureates’ appeal in favour of Darfur. Chinese activists call for greater respect for human rights at home.

    07/05/2008 CHINA
    Chinese migrants in heavy debt after having worked on the Olympic dream
    The story of migrant worker Zheng , proud to have been part of the Olympic labour force, but swindled out of his salary by the building companies. And by a State that is more concerned about its image on the world stage than every day justice.



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