Chinese workers on the Chinese regime’s most ambitious Belt and Road initiative are stranded abroad amid restrictions by the COVID-19 ( CCP) Virus, according to a detailed report by China Labor Watch, released on 30 April.

The report details the appalling conditions faced by some of China’s overseas workers, building the infrastructure projects pushed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013 worldwide.

Through instant messaging services, phone calls, and emails, China Labor Watch spoke to nearly 100 Chinese workers in eight countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa attached to this giant geo-economic network of the Chinese communist regime.

Their basic human rights were severely violated. Most of them, they said, were recruited deceptively with promises of certain wages and legal work visas. However, upon arrival in the host countries, their passports were confiscated, and if they wanted to leave, they had to pay a hefty fine to the Chinese employer.

They were subjected to inhumane treatment, poor living and working conditions, excessive working hours of up to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no holiday leave.

Because they worked with insufficient protection and safety equipment, many suffered serious injuries, which in some cases led to permanent disability due to lack of access to medical treatment.

One example of the extent of the mistreatment is a Chinese mining company worker in Indonesia who, after being diagnosed positive for the CCP Virus in November 2020, was isolated for more than 20 days in an empty room without any treatment. According to the report, other workers later found his body. 

“Intimidation and threats are common for controlling Chinese workers in forced labor at some Belt and Road projects. The most commonly used threats include deportation, reprisal after returning home, high fines and penalties. It is also common to force workers to sign a waiver of rights to sue the employer and to force workers to delete evidence of labor rights violations on their phones,” the report details.

But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censors anything that makes them look to the world like what they are, an authoritarian regime. Articles, photos, and comments on Chinese social networks such as WeChat that reveal the plight of Chinese workers abroad are quickly censored, leading to little understanding of their plight by the rest of the world.

That the Chinese CCP would carry out its Belt and Road initiative using forced labor should come as no surprise. Communist China has used forced labor camps, citing “re-education”, since the 1950s.

According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index data, it is estimated that in 2016 more than 3.8 million people were living in conditions of ‘modern slavery’ in China, a prevalence of 2.8 victims per 1,000 people in the country. And this estimate reportedly does not include figures on organ trafficking.

In its drive to increase its economic power, much of China’s rapid economic development over the last century has been the result of a domestic economy specialising in the production of cheap, labour-intensive goods for export.

But the (supposed) benefit to the rest of the world of importing cheap goods from communist China means being complicit, directly or indirectly, in the forced labor camps where they are produced.

According to Nathan Ruser, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the Chinese government has built nearly 400 detention camps in Xinjiang. 

“By most estimates, about 10% of Uighurs and other Muslim nationalities in Xinjiang have found themselves arbitrarily detained in these camps,” Ruser said.

While the forced labor of the Uighurs has received much international attention in recent years, a lesser-known but very serious development is the CCP’s systematic persecution of practitioners of the ancient spiritual discipline Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) since 1999. 

Since the beginning of the persecution, it is estimated that millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been illegally detained in prisons, labor camps where they were tortured, drugged, forced to renounce their faith, and in many cases killed to remove their organs for trade, according to the Falun Dafa Information Centre.