The other side of the Chinese coin

Tue, 18 Jan 2011 Source: Dowuona, Samuel

Samuel Dowuona, Adom FM

The Vice President John Dramani Mahama recently commissioned the $7.8 billion Teshie General Hospital constructed by a Chinese company called CGC. That same company is constructing a similar facility at Aveyime in the Volta Region. Those are just two of the many good things the Chinese are doing in this country in recent times. The one thing that promises to be the biggest benefit ever Ghana can get from China is the much talked about $13 billion expected Chinese support in loans and grants. Pundits say that money will never come. But as Ghana looks forward to the good things it can get from China, it is important to understand that China is also reputed for many other things that Ghanaians should be concerned about.

It is no secret that China has become a force to reckon with in the world today. Indeed, the Chinese dominance did not begin today; long before the 21st Century made-in-China products, both fake and genuine dominated every economy including the West. In 2001 I was in Australia for a conference and I was shocked to find that even Australian national souvenirs were made in China. At least Ghanaian national souvenirs are largely made in Ghana, except recently when former president Kufuor and his team decided that the Chinese can make better cloth for our Ghana@50 celebration.

The dominance of China today has been reinforced by the collapse of western economies, which has nicely and variously been described as global financial meltdown, credit crunch, and world economic recession among others. The west describes African states suffering economic recession as Highly Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC), but recession in the west is put on the whole world and not just the individual countries. Most of the big multinationals in the west have virtually relocated to China due to the recession, and that has made China the world’s economic and commercial headquarters.

There is cheap labour in China and so companies can operate at less production cost and sell at very affordable rates. Today lots of people who could not afford certain products ordinary can have them at economy rates, curtsy China. Lots of young businessmen and women from Ghana have become rich because they trade between China and Ghana; shipping companies have launched bigger vessels that run between China and Africa because the boom in business on that route is phenomenal. Chinese soap operas are all over the various TV channels in Ghana; Chinese theatre is warming itself into the arts gradually; books on Chinese cultures, history and about China are also getting into our country gradually. In fact lots of Ghanaian students are choosing schools in China for their postgraduate masters’ programmes. There is even a local campus of one Chinese University in Ghana. Some are also learning how to speak Chinese in Ghana.

Those are all good things. But on the flip side there are equally big things that Ghanaians and everyone in the world should be concerned about as far as China is concerned. It is important to note that talking about certain aspects of the negative side of China sounds like western propaganda, because the west did more than enough to paint China black but none of that seem to have worked. But there are aspects which are based on experiences right here in Ghana, and those cannot be African propaganda. In any case what does Africa or Ghana have to gain in running negative propaganda against China? It is only important that whiles African states find solace in China as the west has not helped much, we approach our dealings with China with open eyes else several things will go on our blind side and those will ultimately negate all the benefits we are so focused on right now.

At the start of this article, mention was made of a multi-billion dollar hospital, which was built by the Chinese and commissioned by the Vice President. In the course of building that hospital, the Chinese project managers committed several human rights abuses against Ghanaian workers on the project, but those abuses went on the blind side of the government, which provided the money, and of the Vice President who commissioned the project.

The Chinese employed lots of Ghanaians without formal appointment letters and they paid them fluctuating wages, which are usually based on unproven allegations that the Chinese bring against the Ghanaian workers. For instance, for persons who were told they would be paid GHC150 a month, sometimes went home with only GHC100 a month because the Chinese will claim, without evidence, that one item or the other got lost on site that month so the Ghanaian workers were being made to forfeit part of their salaries to defray the cost of the lost item. This was a regular feature of their dealings with the Ghanaians.

The Chinese also had two vicious dogs on site, which visited mayhem on the Ghanaian workers and the Chinese got away with giving affected person pittances. At least four persons were attacked by the dogs and none of them was given compensation, except paying for their medical bills and restoring them back to work. The last attack was on 61-year old Andreas Klutse, a security guard on site. Andreas was attacked by the two dogs in the presence of one of the Chinese managers called Tobacco. Tobacco did not bother to call the dogs back until after they had torn Andreas’ fresh apart and licked enough of his blood. After the attack, Tobacco refused to convey Andreas with an official vehicle to the hospital.

Indeed, medical report from 37 Military Hospital, where Andreas was admitted to, indicate that the dogs left abrasive wounds, lacerations and de-gloving wounds on Andreas from head to toe. The report stated categorically that due to the dogs attack, Andreas’ functional capacity as a human being has reduced by 20 percent. The Chinese did not care to visit Andreas much when he was on admission in the hospital until the media exposed their negligence before they visited once. As we speak now they have offered to give Andreas a paltry GHC5,000 as compensation, when in fact Andreas’ lawyers sent them a bill of GHC50,000, which is commensurate with the 20 per cent functional capacity loss.

The Vice President John Mahama commissioned the hospital without knowing what abuses the Chinese committed in building that hospital. Because that went unnoticed and unpunished, another Chinese company at Tema Community 25, Yeeco Plastics Limited, is trying to get away with negligence and illegal action, which almost resulted in a death of a Ghanaian security guard called Emmanuel Appau.

On December 19, 2010, Emmanuel, who works for Icheck Security Company, was on guard at Yeeco with a loaded gun even though he did not know how to use a gun. Emmanuel reported that the gun belonged to his boss at Icheck, one Acheampong, but the bullets were from one of the Chinese directors of Yeeco called Kofi who asked him (Emmanuel) to load the gun whiles on guard. Emmanuel hanged the gun around his should and the rope holding the gun allegedly got torn and the gun fell and fired automatically, tearing Emmanuel’s right shoulder apart at around 5.30am.

Like in the case of Andreas, the Chinese boss of Yeeco, refused to convey Emmanuel to the hospital, and also failed to visit him whiles he was in the hospital. Yeeco and Icheck have since been trying to dissociate themselves from the incident, and they have only offered to pay Emmanuel’s medical bills and to find something little for him for his troubles. At least the police are investigating this one, so there may be hope of some justice, even though some police officer claims they can’t prosecute because it has not been established who gave the gun and bullets to Emmanuel.

But those are not the only things on the other side of the Chinese coin. Another Chinese manager of a cylinder company recently hit a Ghanaian staff with an empty cylinder on the head and that also went unnoticed.

Recently, Ghana has had to contend with Chinese entry into illegal gold mining in Ghana. Illegal gold mining is done mainly in the hinterlands, and that is why it is shocking that the Chinese would go that deep into our communities and engage in practices that we are trying to stop our own people from. The Food and Drugs Board (FDB) is having a hard time dealing with Chinese companies spreading unapproved medicines and medical services across Ghana. Lately it is common to find Chinese working as labours on projects in Ghana; for instance, some court buildings in the Ashanti Region of Ghana were constructed with Chinese physical labour. The sea ports are also awash with Chinese labourers. It is common knowledge in Ghana today that most of those Chinese who do menial jobs in Ghana are actually Chinese prisoners who have been dumped in Ghana; very much like the industrial revolution era when machines took over from human labour and the West went looking for places in Africa and Latin America to dump redundant citizens. Does this not give credence to those who claim China seeks to colonise Africa?

At some point in this article, mention was made of Ghanaian businessmen and women making lots of money because they trade between Ghana and China. One of the industries that top this kind of trade is the mobile phone industry. Several Chinese brands are currently on the Ghanaian market, most of them, handsets that have been banned in China itself, and some inferior and fake versions of genuine brands like Nokia, Samsung and others. It is very common to find phones branded NCKIA and NOKLA for NOKIA; and SAMSONG for SAMSUNG. How fake can it get?

In 2009, the Chinese government banned the export of fake handsets from China for two reasons; safety and lack of serial codes. But news from China has it that, after the ban, no measures were put in place to check the export of those phones, and the records actually showed that exports even went higher during the ban. Ghana is one of the main destinations of fake and inferior Chinese phones, and those who deal in them are making a fortune because they are very affordable, even though they are not durable and can be harmful sometimes.

Almost all the multinational phone companies are bringing in inferior China-made phones and promoting them like nobody’s business, and regulators are looking on unconcerned. One company, RLG Phones even assembles ‘Chinese-like’ phones in Ghana and they are working with a Chinese company to establish a 100 million dollar assembling plant in Ghana. RLG themselves shy away from associating themselves with China by saying that they have partners in Asia instead of being specific to say China. In fact one of their Chinese partners also denounced his country by saying he was from Asia when comedian Basket Mouth asked of his nationality.

As for made-in-China versions of consumables on markets anywhere in the world, it is common knowledge. Manufacturers of all kinds of packaged products like food, detergents, cosmetics, toiletries, beverages, electronic appliances, and what-have-you are grappling with the huge competition that the fake China-made versions of their products pose to them.

Maybe the fake China-made products have come to stay, but we can do something about the human right abuses that the Chinese have started visiting on our people. We should not be blinded by the money and the promises of heaven to sacrifice the rights of the very people whose interest we claim to be seeking in welcoming the Chinese into our country. We have had enough of the abuses from the West, not again, at least not from Asia.


Columnist: Dowuona, Samuel