S'poreans protest recent labour action by Chinese workers

Four Singaporeans on Friday visited the Chinese embassy to complain of the recent spate of labour protests staged by workers from China in Singapore.

The four, who say they have no political affiliation, came together on Thursday, the same day as two construction workers from China mounted a crane in Jurong Port to demand unpaid back wages and a week after more than 180 SMRT bus drivers from China held a short-lived strike that government officials have declared as “illegal”.

Entering the Chinese embassy on Tanglin Road, businessmen Bashir Alazhamatkan and Nazem Suki, marine surveyor Muhammad Nazlee and a retiree who wanted to be known only as Joe brought with them a single-page letter addressed to Chinese president Hu Jintao asking his government to "intervene by taking action" against its citizens working in Singapore who partake in "unlawful and uncivilised action".

Citing the strike by Chinese bus drivers and a trade union protest at Singapore’s embassy in Hong Kong to demand the release of five drivers detained, they said they represented Singaporeans as a whole in their opposition to the recent labour actions.

"We, the citizen(s) of Singapore, will not tolerate any government and/or their citizen who refuse(s) to respect the constitution and the law of this Republic state of Singapore," they wrote. "We shall defend this 'little red dot' state to our last blood."

Signed simply as "Citizen of Singapore", the letter was written by former opposition party cadre Mohd Nazem Suki. The former secretary-general of the Singapore Malay National Organisation (PKMS) said 4,000 others had signed his letter either verbally or by email in the hours following the electronic distribution of his petition. These signatures had not been appended to the hard copy of the letter, however.

Explaining why they felt so strongly about this, Nazem said they wanted to "send a stern notice" to the Chinese government that citizens here do not tolerate what has happened.

"We are a very civilised country," he said. "We want to send a notice, a stern one, by the citizens of Singapore stating that if the country, their mainland, wants to defend their citizens in Singapore for their infringements in Singapore, this is not right."

Adding their concern that these protests and strikes could lead to a chain reaction of other uprisings by foreign workers based here, Bashir said they were also calling for mutual respect and understanding between people of both countries.

"We were hoping that the government from China will actually control the protesters, to tell them to respect Singapore and their leaders and the government of Singapore -- our law -- not to insult or stage protests like this," he said.

The four emerged from the embassy failing to seek an audience with any of the Chinese consulate officials.

Also having been unable to submit the letter formally to them, Nazem said they will consider their next course of action later Friday afternoon.

“We are quite disappointed with the reaction to our concerns but we will follow their protocol,” he said, speaking to reporters after exiting the embassy on Friday.

"The government should take stern action, just don't bother about what the world says," he added earlier. "It's our law, it's our sovereignty at stake."

Related stories:
2 China workers protesting on crane arrested
Activists slam crackdown on China strikers
SMRT bus drivers' strike: A sign of things to come?
SMRT bus drivers' strike illegal: Tan Chuan Jin

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