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a Regal struggle in Chengdu

by | 28 October 2009 | One Comment | Last modified: 9 Nov 1:03 am

Update: The workers didn’t show up the second day, and I don’t have any contact info for them, so I don’t know what’s going on. I asked Xinda and they claimed (again) to not know anything about it. We’ll see if anyone shows up today.

Original report: Today about 50 construction workers assembled outside the gate of the “Manhatten” office building in Chengdu, on behalf of over a thousand workers, demanding 30 million yuan in back pay from Chengdu Xinda Real Estate Development Co. (成都鑫达房地产开发有限公司) for 12 months work building the five-star Regal Master Hotel (成都富豪首座酒店), from July 2006 to July 2007.

regal master hotel
Chengdu Regal Master Hotel
(photo by Peng)

According to the workers (who wish to remain anonymous), Xinda contracted the hotel’s construction to Chengduo No. 4 Construction Company (成都市第四建筑工程公司), which subcontracted the work to several groups of migrant workers, including this one, whose constituents hail from throughout China, but mostly from various parts of Sichuan. Apparently Chengdu No. 4 did not sign individual contracts with the workers, and it is this lack of contracts that both companies are using as grounds for refusing payment. Chengdu No. 4 paid the workers a small portion of the promised wages upon completion of the project two years ago, and since then the workers have been jumping through bureaucratic hoops trying to obtain the rest. Chengdu No. 4 claims Xinda never paid the remaining 30 million, so the workers are now trying to put pressure on Xinda directly. When interviewed, Xinda office personnel claimed that Xinda doesn’t owe a cent to Chengdu No. 4, and that the workers have come to “raise a ruckus without justification” (无理取闹).

Today’s effort achieved no results: the guards of the office building refused entry to the workers’ delegates, and when the Xinda employees left the office at 17:30, they claimed the “relevant personnel” were not available. All the while, about 15 thugs, allegedly hired by Xinda but using the office of Heli Property Management Co, which manages the Manhatten building, intimidated the workers and passersby who tried to take photos and ask questions. (The photo below was surreptitiously taken by one passerby from several meters away.) Several news agencies were contacted, but apparently none came to investigate. (One commented that such incidents are too common to be newsworthy, and besides, no newspaper’s editors would be willing to publish it.) The workers went “home” to the construction site where they currently live in makeshift shacks, but they say they’ll be back every day until they get paid.

Migrant workers demanding back pay from Xinda
(photo by Peng)

If you’d like to help, pester the Chengdu news media (Sichuan TV news hotline (86+28+) 8703.3333 or 8703.6666) and the Xinda office: email [email protected], phone (86+28+) 8521.5111 (you could try Mr. Xue [薛] at extension 801). If you’re in Chengdu, go to the Manhatten office building (曼哈顿) around 17:30 tomorrow, address 人民南路4段49号. The Xinda office is on the 15th floor. (Strangely for a major real estate development company established in 1998, their website isn’t working: http://www.xinda-cd.com/)

A Chinese report is forthcoming…

Incidentally, among several dozen people contacted, only one came out to show support. Several Chinese leftists said they were attending a lecture of a visiting American critic of US imperialism. One foreigner said he was worried about getting kicked out of China forever by being associated with such squabbles. He said every day in China we are forced to make ethical decisions, and in the long run we’ll do more good by staying out of such things and managing to stay in China long enough to make a bigger difference. To some extent I agree, and I’ve been abiding by this principle for several years, but sometimes these things just show up at our doorstep. At such moments, we’re forced to ask, “What is my life according to what I do and in relation to what I think?” Even if my puny attempts at helping result only in getting me kicked out forever and wrecking my life plans, numerous personal relationships and career, making not a dent in the mundane struggles of these fellow humans, at least I can say I tried - that I didn’t just turn a blind eye, as did dozens of other people who walked by this afternoon…

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One comment on “a Regal struggle in Chengdu

  1. Pingback: links for 2009-11-01 « The Mustard Seed

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