Hundreds of people in northern Vietnam are illegally taken by brokers to China and end up working in sweatshops
Vietnamese workers trek forests in the northern province of Lang Son to enter China / PHOTO: HA AN
On February 9 police in the northern province of Quang Ninh stopped two buses carrying 50 men who they suspected were being taken illegally to China to work.
The men had reportedly paid Chiu Sang Lenh, 23, VND250,000 (US$10.8) each to be sent to work in a footwear factory in the neighboring country.
Lenh himself had illegally entered China last July to work in the factory after being taken there by another Quang Ninh resident named Phong, the police said.
When he was working there, a Vietnamese man had asked him to bring workers from Vietnam for a commission.
It is just one of many operations to smuggle Vietnamese workers into China by road that the Quang Ninh police have busted in recent times.
Police in Mong Cai town, which borders China’s Guangxi, for instance, have caught more than 230 people trying to cross the border in less than two weeks this month, Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Xuan Dung, chief of the police’s social crime division, told Thanh Nien.
Most cases involved brokers who themselves were virtually enslaved in China and often cheated but in the end, collaborated with their employers to bring more of their compatriots, he said.
Vietnamese workers invariably end up exploited because their documents are seized once they reach China and they do not speak Chinese, he said. Employers usually keep their salaries to have leverage over them, he added.
Hua Hai Hoa, 30, of Lang Son Province said he once illegally entered China with many others to work in a cosmetics company. There Vietnamese workers were always forced to work overtime, and anyone who objected was verbally and even physically abused by supervisors, and their salaries were cut too, he said.
After six months he and some others managed to return to Vietnam.
He said his family could hardly recognize him because he looked like a “zombie” and that it took “a long time” for his health to recover after working in poor conditions for a long time.
Hua Van Hung, also of Lang Son, said he had to work 14 hours a day on a sugarcane farm in China, but was never given rice to eat, only a bowl of vegetable soup and a few slices of fatty meat.
But “the scariest thing” was that he and other Vietnamese were forced to log wood deep in the forest, he said.
It was a dangerous, and even deadly, job, but their supervisors beat them up “mercilessly” if they complained, he said.
In some cases the workers were cheated out of their salaries at the end of their employment terms.
Tran Van Xinh, who lived in Lang Son, said through brokers, he and 12 others worked at a brick factory for three months under “an oral contract.”
Around midnight on the last day of their employment, their employer told them that the police were coming. They fled fearing they would be arrested for illegal immigration.
When they returned to the factory the next afternoon, their employer scolded them for leaving their jobs without permission and refused to pay them three months’ wages, Xinh told Thanh Nien.
In some cases brokers pose as police and take the money from Vietnamese workers at the border when they return home.
Hua Van Huu, who lives near the Mong Cai border, said he has seen this trick many times.
He said once a car carrying workers stopped, brokers impersonating police officers would search them for money and seize it.
Since they would threaten to jail the workers for illegal immigration, the latter could do nothing but silently give away all their money, he added.
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