When touting the Chinese regime’s response to the current epidemic, Chinese state media often mention the rapid construction of two field hospitals in the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
In late January, the Wuhan municipal government announced the construction of two field hospitals, Leishenshan and Huoshenshan, in order to handle the large number of local patients infected with CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus. The two hospitals began taking in patients in early February.
But behind the propaganda, Chinese construction workers for the two hospitals shared their experiences of being exploited and suppressed by local authorities.
In an article published on April 6, Radio Free Asia (RFA) spoke to two workers who took part in the construction of one of the field hospitals, Leishenshan. The workers spoke of their meager payment for the construction work and how they were silenced by local authorities when they tried to speak up about their mistreatment.
“For the past two days, [China’s state broadcaster] CCTV was running stories [of field hospital construction workers] … But the two interviewees were fake. They did not represent us, how we have been unfairly treated,” Mr. Zhu, from the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, told RFA.
Zhu said many of his fellow workers petitioned authorities for proper compensation, but local police clashed with them. “Local police took away construction workers who were in the fight and locked them up for a few hours,” he said.
“We tried to petition our cases to the municipal government. We got close to the front doors of the government building, but police officers beat us up with batons and electric batons,” Zhu explained.
Zhu said the foreman who recruited him, Mr. Xiao, told him that workers like him were paid about 500 to 800 yuan (about $70 to $113) for the construction job. However, Xiao said that the labor dispatch company he worked for earned 1,000 yuan (about $140) commission from each worker.
Laborers for this project were hired by third-party contractors.
Zhu explained that he would have a hard time finding work in his native Shenzhen, as he just worked in Wuhan. Many local communities have barred entry to people who recently traveled to Wuhan, fearing that they have the virus and would spread it.
Another construction worker and Hubei resident, Mr. Chen, told RFA that he and several workers were working in Guangdong province when they saw a job recruitment notice for building Wuhan’s field hospitals in mid-February.
After 10 days of construction work for Leishenshan, Chen said he and his fellow workers got a total payment of roughly 5,000 yuan (about $706).
Chen complained that they were placed under quarantine for the duration of construction—for over a month—during which they could not leave their temporary shelters. They were only allowed to go to the construction site for work.
Chen said they petitioned their mistreatment to Wuhan authorities and China Construction Third Engineering Bureau Corporation, a state-run company tasked with building the two field hospitals, but neither party responded to their cases.
After their petition, they were given temporary jobs at other construction sites undertaken by the corporation, said Chen.
Eventually, Chen said he saw the payroll sheets for the workers at Leishenshan, which clearly stated that they were supposed to earn $2,700 yuan (about $140) daily. Chen said he had no idea what had happened to the money they were supposed to receive.
RFA, citing an unnamed source, said that local police had visited the temporary shelters for the workers, and told them not to speak to foreign journalists.