Luke’s trip through China: Meeting former clients and forging new connections

6 May 2019

In April 2019, Luke, our case manager at the non-domestic workers’ helpdesk, went to China to visit some of our former clients. This trip was organised by Eric Lee, the Director of Singapore Accident Help Centre. Luke’s main purpose was to engage rural China’s local communities through the networks of our former clients, to educate prospective migrant workers to safeguard themselves. Many migrant workers are unaware of the reality of working in Singapore. This lack of awareness is exploited by recruiters, who prey upon the workers’ earnest desire to improve their families’ lives.

The trip began from Tianjin (天津) and spanned Hebei Province (河北省) and Jiangsu Province (江苏省). The next stop was Shijiazuang (石家庄). Subsequently, the journey took them to Dingzhou  (定州) then to Wuji County (无极) and then Hengshui (衡水) before flying to Lianyungang (连云港) in Jiangsu Province (江苏省). The journey continued to Ganyu County (赣榆县), Rizhao (日照) and ended at Qingdao (青岛市). The team visited over 30 men who had formerly worked in Singapore. Most had suffered work injuries of varying severity. Others had encountered unpaid salary issues.

Zhao Xiguo, had to have a part of his brain removed surgically after suffering a head injury at the workplace, and is now completely bed-bound.

Zhao Xiguo, had to have a part of his brain removed surgically after suffering a head injury at the workplace, and is now completely bed-bound.

One of the most harrowing cases is Zhao Xiguo (pictured on the left), who suffered a catastrophic head injury. Part of his brain had to be removed surgically, and he is completely bed-bound. The claim process has been complicated by his employer’s failure to purchase Work Injury Compensation insurance. His case is being wrangled through the legal minefields. Meanwhile, from day to day, his family is struggling with the strain of caring for him and surviving themselves.

The truth is that despite our best efforts, there can never be adequate recompense, especially the heartbreak and financial trauma which their families go through as well. Every exploited or injured worker has a spouse, children, parents, and other dependents: people with faces and names. The suffering caused by each injustice cannot be measured statistically. It ripples outward, hurting all of them. In Singapore, we often overlook the devastation wreaked upon families when the sole breadwinner returns without fulfilling the heavy expectations on his shoulders; or worse, in their own eyes, as a burden.

For many of these workers, the team brought comfort, support, and encouragement to them and their families. Luke shared with their communities the many multi-faceted and often complex difficulties faced by migrant workers in Singapore. He also provided awareness materials to be disseminated through these communities and their networks to anyone who may wish to seek employment in Singapore. Such pre-emptive efforts are in hope of increasing migrant workers’ chances of a better employment experience in Singapore.