Chinese workers upsetting balance at central Vietnam commune

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Chinese workers at a hydropower plant under construction in Quang Nam Province. Photos by Hoang Son

Illegal Chinese workers at a hydropower plant project in central Vietnam's Quang Nam Province have disturbed the peace by attacking local residents.

One of the workers also abandoned his pregnant Vietnamese girlfriend.

Documents from the Ta Poo Commune in Nam Giang District showed that 118 Chinese people are working illegally, out of a total of 234 Chinese employed by Chinese contractor Sinohydro as laborers and engineers at Song Bung 4 project.

Commune officials said the provincial labor department became aware of the situation after an inspection in April, but no actions were taken.

They said the commune has been far less peaceful since work at the plant began in mid-2010.

Tongol Kia, the commune chairman, said many of 40 documented fights had been started by the Chinese workers. "They used weapons and sent local Vietnamese to the hospital."

Krieng Dieu, the commune police chief, said his force has to intervene to stop fights and robberies every several days.

"There will be much less work for us once the project is completed," the officer said.

Dieu said a Chinese guard at the plant used a flashlight to hit a Vietnamese worker in the head in March last year.

Last June a Vietnamese and a Chinese had to be hospitalized after a brawl which began after a Chinese interpreter falsely translated what had been said by Vietnamese workers at a pub, angering the Chinese.

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In a recent conflict, some Vietnamese ethnic workers sought to question their Chinese managers over late payments. Instead of receiving explanations, they were beaten with canes, Dieu said.

Dieu also told the story of a 24-year-old local woman only identified as N.T.H., now raising a baby she had with a Chinese worker who disappeared back to China several months before she gave birth late last year.

Little is known about the man's life in China including where he is now, except that he is married with two children.

H. said she was selling food at the site when she met the man and became pregnant after less than a year of intimate relationship. They did not wed.

"He taught me Chinese and promised to bring me over to China. He called me several months before I gave birth, promising again, but we have not had contact since the baby was born," she said.

Nguyen Thi Thu Huong from the Quang Nam labor department said they had reported the illegal workers to the province administration on June 12 and it will decide whether to deport the workers or demand they apply for permits.

Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security in July 2009 said 35,000 Chinese workers were in Vietnam, but has not updated the figure since.

Unlicensed Chinese workers made headlines several times last year. Police deported 204 from a wood processing plant in the south and seven fish traders and farmers near Cam Ranh port in the central region. Many Chinese working illegally as doctors and nurses also left the country when police raided their dubious clinics in Ho Chi Minh City.

A report by Vietnam's labor ministry released last August showed that around 33 percent of 77,087 foreign laborers in Vietnam are working without permits.

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