Human rights abuses litter China’s Belt and Road project, tainting Beijing’s green credentials.
A report by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has highlighted more than 670 violations against Chinese companies operating “overseas” between 2013 and 2020.
Major mining companies were singled out with Peru, the world’s second-largest copper producer, named as a hotspot. China’s neighbor Myanmar, a leading supplier of tin and rare earth ore, also suffered from exploitation.
“Over one-third of the allegations against Chinese mining businesses overseas were related to prolonged conflicts between large China-backed multinational mining companies and local communities in Latin America and Papua New Guinea,” the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre pointed out in its study released this week.
- The independent human rights group reported that 679 human rights violations were reported between 2013 and 2020.
- The cases were linked to Chinese companies operating abroad.
- Human rights risks were particularly high in metals and mining.
- They made up 35% of the allegations.
- Chinese renewable energy investment in Belt and Road projects also came under the spotlight.
- Human rights risks in the sector made up 13% of the cases reported.
What was said: “Despite commitments to openness and transparency, five Chinese companies had a very low response rate when invited by the [Business & Human Rights] Resource Centre to address human rights allegations made against their overseas operations,” the report said.
Delve deeper: The study was published 24 hours after Human Rights Watch revealed on August 10 the fallout from a Chinese-funded hydroelectric dam in Cambodia.
Livelihoods threatened: “Completed in 2018, [the dam] has undermined the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Indigenous and ethnic minority people,” Human Rights Watch said in the 137-page report, entitled Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia.
Mass flooding: “The Lower Sesan 2 dam, one of Asia’s widest dams, flooded large areas upstream of the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok Rivers, two tributaries of the Mekong River,” the study said.
Multi-million-dollar project: “Chinese government banks provided most of the financing, reportedly budgeted at approximately US$800 million,” the Human Rights Watch report added.
Calls for reform: “The Chinese government needs to drastically reform Belt and Road infrastructure development financing to prevent abuses in other projects undertaken in countries like Cambodia, where the government has a long track record of violating its citizens’ rights,” John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said.
China Factor comment: The Belt and Road investment plan is President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative. Branded as debt-trap diplomacy, it is now embroiled in allegations of human rights violations.