Chinese company accused of terrible human rights abuses in Ethiopia; TPLF regime dismisses complaints as anti-development, terrorism

4 Jan

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

china-ethiopia flagsCDCA, a Chinese company operating in Ethiopia, is accused of gross violations of human rights of Ethiopian workers in its firm, both at headquarters in Addis Abeba and throughout the country.

The labor union’s complaints were released to ESAT today by CDCA labor union President Kurabachew Firew, alleging that management staff and Chinese workers are involved in beatings of workers, rape of women workers and residents, murders, kidnapping and in general mistreating of Ethiopian workers, according to the news broadcast on ESAT (Forward video, play from 4:50).

In its January 3rd news report, quoting the CADCA President, ESAT reported that during the past year, officials and Chinese workers at the CBCA company had reportedly killed three persons, raped on average over 1,400 women and kidnapped five persons.

The president confirmed to ESAT that he could substantiate these allegations with appropriate evidences. Kurabachew added that the Chinese company has become serious threat to workers in the company and by endangering the wellbeing of other citizens.

Speaking about the gravity of such criminal and uncivilized behavior, the labour leader recalled that one woman who was raped by seven Chinese men in one day continues to badly suffer to this day from gynecological problems.

In addition, he said such is the extent of the lawlessness that a Chinese who killed 19-year old girl last year was released within a day.

Moreover, an employee by the name Gashaw Tasie received severe blow to the head by Chinese workers and his hand was broken.

The Chinese company is also accused of paying its employees with forged currency and turns around to accuse the workers of being responsible for the use of such money.

Furthermore, the labor leader alleged that the company has openly told them that it would not be subject to Ethiopian laws. Instead, it has told the workers that they would be administered by Chinese laws.

In that context, the workers were informed that since China did not have labor unions, the company would not recognize their union either.

Because of his advocacy of respect for the rights of the workers and an end to such inhuman abuses by the management, Ato Kurabachew Fikru disclosed that assassination attempt was made on his life.

The union leader also said the Ethiopian government is siding the Chinese company, which, in spite of this it has provided it with all-round security, who instead are now protecting the Chinese staff instead of their citizens, essentially making them collaborators in the above-mentioned crimes.

In the circumstances, in his appeal for help from all peoples at home and abroad, the labor leader informed ESAT that his union had taken its complaints to the government. The responses they received were threats and were, thus, dismissed as “terrorists and enemies of development.”

Details of CDCA’s business activities in Ethiopia were not made available in the news report. It is only known that it has several branches in different parts of Ethiopia, according to the ESAT report.

Similar Africa experiences

This is not the first time that Chinese companies have faced such accusations. In some countries, unlike Ethiopia, the concerned states have intervened to protect the rights of their citizens.

For instance, the Zimbabwe government enacted a law by which communities shooed away by Chinese companies, against efforts by these companies to roll back the law on Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act, is now being implemented to benefit people around mines to share ownership trusts.

It appears that to calm frayed Chinese nerves, China’s Ambassador Lin Lin reacted to this action by Zimbabwe urging Chinese companies and workers to abide by the law, as follows:

    “We have some Chinese companies investing here. Some of them are state-owned enterprises and others are private companies and our advice to them is that they have to follow the Zimbabwean laws or regulations. But there is need to take into consideration interests of both sides,” he told a press conference … My government and the embassy have always tried to advise Chinese companies to keep in good terms with the local people and to follow Zimbabwe government policies. If they commit crimes they should be punished. They should be brought to justice.”

In a similar manner, with a rebuke fortified by strong defense of China’s interests in Africa and Zambia in particular, Lu Shaye, director-general for African Affairs said in November in reference to this growing reaction to Chinese misbehavior: “Undeniably improprieties by some individuals negatively affect Africans’ impressions of Chinese people and this is not acceptable. We advise Chinese people abroad to reflect the finer things about China because we are not bad people.”

It would be recalled that in July 2010 hundreds of African workers at a Chinese-owned Zambian mine rioted over low wages, to which the Chinese company reacted with violence.

Moreover, the shameful memory in the shooting and killing in October 2010 by two Chinese managers of 13 protesting workers at their Collum mine in Zambia is still alive in African mind. This story was reported, among others, by CNNMoney


Africans react angrily against Chinese and China’s Africa interests

Inevitably, Chinese harshness toward Africans has had backlash against their own citizens and China’s interests in Africa. This rise in violence against Chinese citizens, in 2012 became major concern for Beijing.

Accordingly, thus, there have been reports of spates of violence against the Chinese in Africa, according to France 24, in places such as Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, South Sudan, etc.

Confronted by strong interviewers by well informed Caixin journalists, China’s top Africa hand Zhong Jianhua was compelled to admit some of the charges against Chinese companies in Africa. In spite of efforts to massage his response, here is how he put his words Caixin in April 2012:

    “Chinese trade and investment practices have generated controversy. African communities with Chinese investors, as well as the international community, have often found fault with how mainland companies handle labor relations, treat the environment or bend the law. Even stable Chinese companies with years of experience in Africa occasionally struggle with labor and social issues, given the wide gap between Chinese culture and the varied cultures of Africa’s diverse population.”

Roughly, Zhong said, one million Chinese nationals are working or doing business in Africa, “from Egypt’s Mediterranean shore to the Cape of Good Hope.” There are also over 2,000 Chinese-owned businesses in Africa today.

Helpful suggestions for Beijing by Chinese analysts

The problem could be attributed to Beijing’s policy itself. China is in bed with dictators and is working against the burning desire of the peoples of Africa for freedom, respect for their human rights and democratic rights.

In an analysis about this problem and in view of China’s longstanding interests in Africa, Caixin rightly wrote: “The safety of Chinese nationals in many developing parts of the world, not just Africa, is increasingly coming under threat.”

In that context, it reminded the Chinese government of the need to take cognizance of the fact that Africa is undergoing historic changes, mostly toward peace, democracy stability and prosperity. From that perspective, the paper recommended to Beijing:

    Learning to deal with security issues involving citizens abroad presents a fresh challenge for the Chinese government, and there is much room for improvement.

    As Africa changes, China must adapt. For instance, pro-democracy forces have led political revolutions in some lands, and through elections yesterday’s rebels may be today’s ruling government. This means Chinese diplomacy can no longer focus on cultivating relations with a single ruling party, but must seek to engage various sectors in society in dialogue.

The problem created by the Chinese arrogant attitude towards Africans is need of addressing with earnestness and innovative political and social solutions. Unfortunately, to date this possibility has partly been constrained by China’s heavy dependence on the very dictators and powers of existing African state structures to reach its goal of economic dominance.

This explanation becomes plausible, when one studies the July 2012 declaration by the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), drafted by Beijing.

The declaration uses the word “mutual” seven times in its 19 articles by way of promoting China’s advantages in the realm of interstate relations.

Twice, it comes in combination with “trust” as “mutual trust”, twice as “mutual benefit”, still twice as “mutual support” and once as “mutually beneficial” – all of them in the context of the relations between the states of Africa and China.

Wherever this Chinese-drafted declaration makes reference to “people”, it is in reference to state organized cultural exchanges and cooperation. It means that, for instance, one needs to send a dancer to China, he she must secure intervention of the two governments – the home country and and the Chinese communist party.

Not even the single reference to “friendship” in the above-mentioned declaration is employed with the ‘natural’ people-to-people relations – interactions free from orchestration by the Chinese state and its partners in Africa. Therefore, it appears that in the FOCAC declaration China did not have interest in going beyond the promotion of Chinese interests – its hunt for Africa’s resources and also to render it the market it could dominate tomorrow – on the back of the unpopular African state.

This is one big hole in today’s China’s empty propaganda of non-interference and respect for the states of Africa and its people!

If there is any sincerity in that, China must have long ago curbed some of its badly behaved companies. If not like a rabid dog, some of them appear to hunger for a replay of 18th century European colonialism in 21st century Africa – for that matter at its crudest!

In this context, mustn’t one remind such Chinese businesses to learn from history who they are dealing with, when it comes to Ethiopia?

Surely we are a poor people; but never citizens who would voluntarily surrender their national independence and sovereignty.

Today, as yesterday, that unbending spirit of love of independence and pride in oneself is part of the Ethiopian psyche.

*Edited and updated material

TE – Transforming Ethiopians