Chinese Company Building RIA Terminal Accused of Mistreating Liberian Contractors

HARBEL, Margibi – Chinese supervisors of the firm constructing the terminal at Roberts International Airport have been accused of routinely assaulting their Liberian contractors while on the job without serious repercussions by either the company or the police.

On March 27, a Chinese man working with China Harbour Engineering Ltd is said to have physically assaulted a Liberian contractor identified as Bigboy Kollie on the job, using his safety boot to stomp on Kollie’s head and neck.

“I had my head bowed [while] welding and the Chinese man knocked my helmet with a hammer and began laughing,” Kollie recounted the issue. “And I told him I will call the police if he repeated his actions. But to my surprise, [at] around 5:00, the same man stepped on my neck… for no reason.”

Kollie filed a complaint and the police at RIA arrested the Chinese national and charged him with simple assault.

Kollie was later provided with money to treat himself. On his x-ray result from the John F. Kennedy Hospital, the medical professional indicated that Kollie had severely strained his neck and it would require some time and treatment for him to fully recover. For now, Kollie can hardly turn his neck and wears braces around it.

The victim, Bigboy Kollie. Photo: Emmanuel Degleh

The victim, Bigboy Kollie. Photo: Emmanuel Degleh

Kollie is not the first Liberian to have been assaulted by Chinese workers on the site. Police and other individuals working with the company confirmed that there had been at least three other complaints recently.

However, the Liberian workers refused to speak on the record for fear of losing their jobs. In one case, some workers mentioned the case of a Liberian who allegedly had a Chinese worker injure him with a zinc roofing sheet. The injured Liberian was pressured to cover up the assault by referring to it as an accident.

As for Kollie, he has not yet returned back to working and suggested that his employment with the company is shaky, due to his decision to speak out.

A police officer who would only speak anonymously noted that such assaults against Liberian workers were often resolved informally because of the importance of the project being implemented by China Harbour. The Chinese workers and the company are therefore given protection.

Meanwhile, China Harbour’s liaison manager, Abubakar Jallo, confirmed the abuses but blamed it on the language barrier. He said when instructions given out by Chinese workers are not properly followed by the Liberian contractors, it often frustrates the Chinese workers, leading them to resolve to violence.

“There will always be conflict because they are unable to communicate with each other on the job,” Jallo said.

Featured photo by Emmanuel Degleh

Emmanuel Degleh

Emmanuel has over a decade of experience working as a community radio broadcaster. He is the Margibi correspondent for the Liberia Broadcasting System and currently the acting president of the Margibi Journalist Association. Emmanuel is also a member of the Press Union of Liberia and a 2016 Internews Health Journalism Fellow.

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