Japan urged to investigate migrant abuse

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am

The Foreign Ministry has called on Japan to carry out a full investigation into the maltreatment of six Chinese women working in Japan.

Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said officials from the Chinese embassy in Tokyo had been sent to look into the case and to visit three of the women, who are being treated in hospital for injuries incurred while escaping from the laundry for which they worked.

'We hope the authorities in Japan will carry out an immediate investigation and safeguard the legitimate interests of Chinese workers in Japan,' Ms Jiang said.

Observers said the case was a warning to Beijing to regulate its overseas workers better and give more help to citizens abroad.

The women, all from the Hubei city of Huangshi , were recruited by an agency in the city on a three-year contract in December 2005 as sewing 'technical interns'. However, after one month the women realised they were there to work for a laundry, according to the Changjiang Daily newspaper.

Chinese migrant workers have been a major source of labour in Japan as low birth rates and a rapidly ageing population have left many manual jobs unfilled.

Foreign Affairs University professor Niu Zhongjun said it was not uncommon for migrant labourers to be mistreated in Japan.

'Despite the harsh working conditions and the risk of violating laws, many in China are still eager [to do the work] because they hear nice stories such as being able to earn a lot more money,' he said. 'It's time for Beijing to start educating people who want to work in other countries.'

Professor Niu said Beijing needed to provide more help to its citizens living and working overseas and better regulate recruiting agencies.

The women's plight became known in China after the Japan New-Generation Overseas Chinese Newspaper picked up the story.

According to the paper, the women were forced by Technoclean, a laundry company based in Yamanashi prefecture, to work at least 15 hours a day and seven days a week in return for a monthly salary of about 3,000 yuan (HK$3,428). Between September and March they were given just six days off.

The company threatened to send the workers back to China after they asked for a pay rise, according to accounts in the Changjiang Daily by three of the women, who were sent back to China on August 24. The other three managed to escape from their dormitory by jumping from their second-floor room but suffered injuries. They were found by residents and sent to hospital.