Workers in China Made to Eat Cockroaches and Drink Body Waste

A widely-shared video posted on the Chinese social media site Weibo shows a male employee standing in the middle of a circle, getting whipped with a belt. (Image:  Weibo/Screenshot)
A widely-shared video posted on the Chinese social media site Weibo shows a male employee standing in the middle of a circle, getting whipped with a belt. (Image: Weibo/Screenshot)

In a shocking display of inhumane treatment, three managers of a company in southern China were found to have forced employees to drink urine and eat cockroaches. The managers were arrested after video of the incident went viral on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

Disregarding basic human rights

According to reports, the managers had sent text messages to the employees warning that failure to meet sales targets for the month would invite punishment. This included things like eating cockroaches, drinking toilet water or vinegar, shaving their heads, or selling sanitary pads and condoms on the street.

When a few employees failed to meet their targets, the managers forced them to go topless and started whipping them with a belt. The video was shot and circulated on Weibo by one of the employees present during the incident. Cups of yellow liquid, believed to be urine, were also shown in the video. As the post went viral, social media users were outraged. Police stepped in and arrested the managers.

When inquired as to why they did not quit rather than be subjected to such inhuman treatment, one employee stated that the company had yet to pay two month’s salaries. They just did not want to risk losing their hard-earned money. The company had also threatened to cut back on severance pay if they quit.

The Chinese stock market has been on a slump in recent times as tensions regarding growth keep investors away from betting on the economy. (Image: Robert Scoble via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

This is only the latest in a string of cases of Chinese firms employing unusual measures to punish, shame, or encourage their staff. (Image: Robert Scoble via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Two managers spent 10 days in jail. The third manager was sentenced for five days of jail time. Incidents of employee shaming are not new in Chinese society. There have been reports of employees being forced to kiss rubbish bins and even slap each other as a punishment by their superiors.

Racism in Africa

The deplorable treatment of employees is not just limited to native people alone. Even foreigners, especially Africans, have reported extreme racism. Beijing’s investments in Kenya has been a topic of hot debate recently, with many people saying that they were being subjected to racial harassment by their Chinese bosses.

“Concerns about racism and discrimination are a growing part of the conversation about China’s expanding presence. In Nairobi, workers in their 20s and 30s swap stories of racism or discrimination they have witnessed. One described watching a Chinese manager slap her Kenyan colleague, who was also a woman, for a minor mistake. Other Kenyan workers explained how their office bathrooms were separated by race: one for Chinese employees, the other for Kenyans,” according to The New York Times.

Racial mistreatment of Africans is not just limited to employers but is also said to expand to their Chinese co-workers. In August this year, a Senegalese footballer, Demba Ba, playing for Chinese FA had to endure racial slurs from the opposing team during a match. The accused was banned for six matches.

In August this year, a Senegalese footballer, Demba Ba, playing for Chinese FA had to endure racial slurs from the opposing team during a match. The accused was banned for six matches. (Image: smalltown boy via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

In August this year, a Senegalese footballer, Demba Ba, playing for Chinese FA, had to endure racial slurs from the opposing team during a match. (Image: smalltown boy via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

With China aiming to be a global superpower through the “Made in China 2025” initiative, it is high time that the country strengthens its labor laws, along with basic human rights, and ensure that its employees, both domestic and foreign, are protected from abuse and racial harassment at the workplace.

Ironically, the Communist Party seems to have little love for labor unions. While in the U.S., workers have the right to organize, strike, and sue the company, China has banned workers from ever taking any of these countermeasures.    

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