Chinese workers probed for illegally working in Russia

Updated: 2013-05-25 01:48

By ZHAO YANRONG (China Daily)

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Russian authorities investigated nearly 200 Chinese workers this week who are suspected of working in the country illegally. Experts called for a better-regulated labor exporting system to secure a better working environment for Chinese workers in Russia.

As many as 74 Chinese workers in the Volgograd region, who authorities said have no identity documents, have been detained by local law enforcement authorities, according to the Interior Ministry of Russia on Thursday, Xinhua reported.

The workers were employed last winter by a farm that grows vegetables in greenhouses in the Nikolayevski district. All the workers have been transferred into custody under the control of the Interior Ministry's local branch in Volgograd.

Local police claimed that the workers, who cannot speak Russian, were illegal residents, and local authorities have decided to extradite them. Officials from the Chinese embassy in Moscow, who have been informed about the incident, are heading to the region for further negotiations, Xinhua reported.

Early this week, about 110 Chinese workers were found in a factory producing fake Chanel shoes in Sverdlovsk Yekaterinburg. The Chinese consulate in Yekaterinburg said on Wednesday that those workers who had proper employment visas were not detained, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Li Xin, director of the Center of Russian and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, said working without permission and working for illegal companies have seriously damaged Chinese workers' image in Russia.

"We definitely need much stricter regulations on Chinese labor going to Russia," he said.

China-Russia trade reached $73.6 billion in the first 10 months of 2012, up 13.4 percent from last year. China is Russia's biggest trading partner, while Russia is a major trade partner of China, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

"There is no statistical figure of Chinese workers in Russia so far, but the quota for Chinese workers has been reduced in recent years in the Far East area due to the negative image of Chinese workers, while there are more work visas issued for workers from other Asian countries such as Japan, India and Vietnam," Li said.

Many Chinese agencies do not provide enough support for Chinese workers, such as proper working permission and insurance, after the workers arrive in Russia. Meanwhile, Chinese workers are not familiar with local employment policies, which leads to frequent negative reports on Chinese workers, he added.

"We need to enhance knowledge of Russian laws and customs with Chinese workers and companies, as well as language capability, to secure Chinese workers' interests in Russia," he added.

Feng Xiliang, a researcher with the Beijing-based Capital University of Economics and Business, said there would be more Chinese workers going overseas under a much-internationalized economic development.

"Chinese labors made a contribution to Russia's development. I hope the Russian government can also play an important role on educating Chinese laborers and companies to secure Chinese workers' rights," Feng said.