The New York Times about Vietnamese workers in Linglong: Conditions are miserable and dangerous
Fleeing poverty in Vietnam, workers have come to the “promised land” of Europe, but it turned out that a job in Serbia, one of Europe’s poorest countries, in the Chinese tire company Linglong in Zrenjanin became a symbol of the abyss between the attractive promise of Chinese investments and the dark reality, reports the New York Times.
“I wanted to go to the West to change my life,” a Vietnamese farmer, 43, a father of three, recalls in an interview. His life has certainly changed – it has become much worse, reports the New York-based paper.
Named the biggest Chinese industrial investment in Europe, the Ling Long Tire factory worth US$ 900 million is now a reason for criticism of the Serbian government, which is making itself subordinate to China without asking any questions.
Workers and activists say the company is creating problems such as human trafficking, prison-like working conditions and environmental abuse.
About 400 Vietnamese workers work in Zrenjanin, along with hundreds of Chinese workers, who receive higher salaries and have better living conditions, according to the workers and local workers’ activists.
A Vietnamese worker described working conditions in Serbia as “miserable and dangerous” and he said he was housed in a dilapidated hut full of other Vietnamese workers and that they faced harassment by Chinese supervisors.
Serbia claims that this Chinese investment helped achieve economic growth of seven percent last year, among the highest in Europe.
However, the situation with the workers in Linglong set back Serbia’s long-term efforts on the path to the European Union.
That issue exacerbated the biggest political headache of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic – public anger over projects that are harmful to the environment.
Despite Beijing’s praise in the pro-government Serbian media, in the eyes of many Serbs, China is responsible for environmental degradation, the paper reports.