News / Asia

China 'Concerned' by Singapore's Arrest of Chinese Bus Drivers

A police van leaves the premises of a dormitory as negotiations with striking bus drivers continue within the building in Singapore, November 26, 2012.
A police van leaves the premises of a dormitory as negotiations with striking bus drivers continue within the building in Singapore, November 26, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
China has expressed "great concern" about Singapore's arrest of four Chinese bus drivers accused of involvement in a rare strike in the Southeast Asian nation earlier this week.

Singapore police arrested the four Chinese immigrant workers on Wednesday and Thursday and charged them with inciting an illegal strike, an offense punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,600. One of the men faces an additional charge of posting Internet messages that encouraged his co-workers to strike.

Chinese Migrants in Singapore

  • Singapore is home to 200,000 Chinese migrants
  • Most work in construction, manufacturing, maritime and service industries
  • They apply for work permits through agents who charge substantial commission fees
  • Many work long hours without overtime pay, some accuse employers of exploitation
  • Singapore labor laws offer protection to both migrant and local workers
The four were among 171 Chinese bus drivers who went on strike on Monday to protest being paid less than their Malaysian counterparts who work for the same Singaporean state-run transport company, SMRT Corporation. The strike was over by Wednesday, when most of the workers, who are not unionized, reported back for duty.

The Chinese Embassy in Singapore released a statement on Thursday, expressing concern about the arrests and saying it was trying to arrange consular access to the four detained drivers as soon as possible. It called for the "legitimate rights and interests" of the Chinese workers to be protected. Singaporean authorities promised to examine the drivers' grievances.

When the strike began, the Chinese Embassy also urged the bus drivers to abide by Singaporean laws and avoid affecting public travel. Local laws prohibit workers in essential services such as transportation from going on strike without giving at least 14 days' notice.

Singapore has long used such laws to keep a lid on labor unrest and political dissent. Its last strike was organized by shipyard workers in 1986.

The government of the wealthy city-state also has had to rely on hundreds of thousands of migrants from less-developed Asian nations to ease a chronic shortage of labor for low-skilled jobs deemed undesirable by Singaporeans.

Foreign workers make up about one-third of Singapore's population of 5.1 million. Many migrants also work in mid- or high-level positions in the international financial center and port, drawing complaints from locals who have to compete with foreigners for jobs.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid