A group of Vietnamese laborers say Chinese workers and supervisors at a building company where they are working in Algeria starved and beat them after they refused to work due to disputes over their contract.

The case, which happened last month but came to light last week after the victims appealed to the Vietnamese government for help, have sparked outrage online in Vietnam where people are already suspicious of the Chinese due to border and maritime territorial issues.

Pictures posted on social media show one worker’s black eye and swollen face as well as severe bruises on the legs and arms of another man. 

According to Vietnamese media, the Chinese company is Dongyi Jiangsu Co. Ltd, but officials there could not be reached for comment.

Worker Dao Ngoc Cuong, one of the two who sustained the most severe injuries, said he was assaulted by a group of Chinese colleagues under the direction of Chinese bosses.

“The Chinese workers cornered us in our rooms and we had to hide in there. They then took me to the office and used canes to beat me up. I sustained fractures in my bone, and my colleague broke his. We have no spirit to work now,” he said.

Cuong said he just wants to return to Vietnam to reunite with his family, who are worried about the ordeal in which he and others were also denied food.

Nguyen Van Dung, first secretary in charge of consular affairs at Vietnam Embassy in Algiers, confirmed the assault to VOA’s Vietnamese Service, saying the diplomatic mission is seeking to repatriate the workers.

He added the Vietnamese government had asked the Chinese embassy in Algiers to intervene to stop the company from causing harm to the Vietnamese laborers, but has not received any response.

“We sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese embassy requesting for their intervention, but have not heard from them. Sources told us that the company has been summoned by the embassy. We have taken the workers to the hospital for examination, and use that as an evidence against the company, and to ask for compensation,” said Dung.

The Chinese embassy in Algiers has not responded to an interview request from VOA’s Vietnamese Service.

Dung said over 2,000 Vietnamese people are working in Algeria, one of Vietnam’s most popular labor markets.

According to government statistics, over 500,000 Vietnamese migrant workers are working in more than 40 countries and territories all over the world.

Disputes over contracts and employers’ broken promises of payments are cited as the main problems facing Vietnamese laborers overseas.