Bus drivers imprisoned in Singapore for staging strike deported back to China

02 April 2013

He Junling, who was sentenced to seven weeks in jail by a Singapore court last month for inciting Chinese bus drivers to go on strike for higher pay and better living conditions, was deported back to China on 31 March.

Three other bus drivers, Liu Xiangying, Gao Yueqiang and Wang Xianjie, who were each sentenced to six weeks in jail for their part in the two day strike at the end of November last year, were deported early last week.

Meanwhile, two other Chinese workers, Wu Xiaolin and Zhu Guilei, were sentenced to four weeks in jail by a Singapore court on 21 March for staging a crane-top protest at a construction site in December last year. The two workers wanted to be released from their contracts but their employer insisted on docking various fees first. The two workers were found guilty of criminal trespass after sitting on top of the construction site’s cranes for around nine hours.

The two construction workers will likely be deported too after serving a few weeks in jail. Chinese workers in Singapore are dependent on their employer for their visa and once their employment has been terminated, they have no right to remain in the city state.

The prison sentences come at a time of rising tension between Singapore citizens, who feel threatened by the growing numbers of migrant workers in the city, and Chinese workers, who are getting increasingly tired of being treated like second class citizens. As CLB pointed out in our 2011 research report there at least 200,000 Chinese migrant workers in Singapore, mainly employed in the city’s construction sites, factories, shops and restaurants; working long hours for low pay in frequently hazardous conditions.

Many have to endure abuse, discrimination and violations of their rights but few can obtain legal redress. Previously most suffered in silence but in in the last two years more and more workers have shown they are willing stage public protests in their pursuit of redress, just as they would do back home in China. And it is likely that, despite the tough stance of the Singapore authorities, more Chinese workers will take similar action in the future.

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