China’s embassy in Madagascar yesterday expressed shock at a deadly riot involving local workers at a Chinese-run sugar plant and criticized the island nation’s government for failing to protect Chinese interests.
The statement came three days after local workers clashed with local security forces, leaving two people dead, before they allegedly looted the sugar plant in Morondava.
The embassy said that Chinese workers evacuated the factory because of fears for their safety.
“We hope the Madagascar government will take necessary measures to properly handle the attack at the Morondava sugar plant and to erase the ill impact this incident has brought to the country’s international image and its ability to attract foreign investments to create a good environment for Madagascar to cooperate with China and other countries,” the statement said.
Madagascan Prime Minister Roger Kolo and Minister of Economy and Industry Jules Etienne Rolland have pledged to try to resolve the situation.
The labor protest started when the plant’s seasonal workers demanded contracts that offer better pay and better conditions, according to reports.
The Chinese embassy said the requests were unreasonable and that the workers began to block the factory early last month, cutting off utilities, harassing other employees and sabotaging equipment.
The confrontation escalated after Madagascan security forces arrested two strike leaders.
On Wednesday, about 500 workers rushed to a base of the security forces to demand the release of their colleagues and police fired tear gas and live ammunition, the Madagascar Tribune reported. Two people died. Police said they were acting in self-defense because some workers had guns and machetes.
Beijing’s official China News Service said the workers were armed with axes, slingshots and rocks.
Rioters then converged on the factory, looted its sugar supply and set fire to a building. Some carried bags of sugar on their backs or in carts and wheelbarrows and some of it was quickly sold on the illegal market, reports said.
China is Africa’s largest trading partner, but closer ties have resulted in sometimes violent labor disputes.
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