[Documents menu] Documents menu

Chinese on strike here face jail at home

By Ruth Sinai, Ha'aretz, Wednesday 18 April 2001

The Chinese authorities have threatened a group of Chinese workers in Israel with up to seven years' imprisonment for walking out on their employer, contractor A. Dori, unless they name names about strikers or express remorse for their actions.

Some 170 Chinese laborers working for the contractor initiated a strike action at the end of March, claiming that their employer has not paid them for the last year, giving them only NIS 50-100 a month as spending money.

The threat from China was contained in a letter sent to the workers and signed by the Ministry of Public Security in the city of Xiu Dong, the city's district prosecutor and the city's court. The construction company which hired the workers and sent them to Israel is located nearby. The Public Security Ministry is China's principal police authority and has branches in all major cities.

The letter, dated April 7, was distributed to the laborers by a Chinese representative at the Tel Aviv building site where they walked off the job last month. The confrontation lasted only a week. It emerged that A. Dori had indeed deposited the salaries in bank accounts opened in the laborers' names, but the laborers did not know that the bank accounts even existed. After the laborers received the details of their accounts and withdrew their money, the majority of them returned to work.

Bank records, however, showed that some money had been withdrawn from the bank by a Chinese delegate, probably a representative of the Chinese firm through which the laborers are employed.

Your behavior not only goes against your contracts, said the letter, but also breaches the criminal laws on contracts in China. Under Chinese labor law, all problems must be solved through negotiation and the Israeli law is not a factor in this issue, stated the letter.

The penal law in China prohibits Chinese citizens from seeking employment outside of their own country.

It also states that worker leaders who cause work to stop and thus cause the firm to fall behind in production will face between three to seven years in prison.

Under the law, anybody who participates in a strike faces an average of three years in prison, house arrest or having their political rights taken away.

The letter warns those laborers who did not go back to the A. Dori building site and who are now working in Israel illegally that the Chinese government will file indictments against you upon your return to China. The government will also deduct money from the salaries of the strikers for causing losses to the Israeli contractor.

The Chinese economic attache in Israel said that he knew nothing of the letter and added that the Chinese government asks the Chinese workers to adhere to the Israeli and Chinese laws.