Chinese Workers Are Forbidden To Have Sexual Intercourse In Australia

(Sydney Morning Herald)  Foreign workers' civil rights exploited.  By Nick O'Malley.  November 4, 2006.

A Chinese worker was made to sign a contract that bans him from making anyone pregnant, drunkenness, "trouble-making" and joining in political or union activity.  Fu Zhi Hong, a printer on a 457 visa, signed a contract with a Chinese employment agent banning "for personal reasons resulting in pregnancy or impregnating others and inflicting physical or mental harm on others".  

He was later sacked by his Melbourne employer, Lakeside Packaging, after breaking his wrists.  When he signed up to work in Australia Mr Fu was required to pay $21,000 to his agent, the Shanghai Overseas Employment Service, and to pay for his air fares to Australia.

A Senate estimates committee hearing this week heard Mr Fu's contract with the agent also forbade him from seeking new employment in Australia, breaking migration regulations.  Mr Fu's case is the latest in a string of examples of foreigners apparently being exploited while working in Australia under the increasingly controversial 457 visa program.

A Department of Immigration official told the hearing that it was possible that Mr Fu could be deported for being out of work for 28 days while he was recovering.  But he said the department could consider applications for extensions on a case basis.

Mr Fu's case highlights concerns that the Federal Government is unable to police the activities of offshore recruitment and migration agents which provide labour to Australian employers under the 457 program.

The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, has written to the Chinese Government about the case, which is also being investigated by the Office of Workplace Services and the Victorian Government.  Many unions are campaigning to have the visa abolished. Labor wants the program reformed to ban overseas agents from employing workers in Australia.

The Labor senator Kim Carr, who brought the contract to the hearing's attention, said it was extraordinary that under the 457 system employers could "apply the civil rights of China to workers in Australia".

[partial translation of the contract that Fu Zhi Hong signed]

(Y Weekend)  By Xu Ying (徐英).  November 30, 2006.

Fu Zhihong (photo: The Age)

Due to a translation error by the Australian editor of Hong Kong's <Sing Tao Daily> in which "banning for personal reasons resulting in pregnancy or impregnating others" became "banning sexual intercourse," Chinese netizens ended up dealing with the "human rights conditions of Chinese laborers working overseas."

On November 6, the ChinaNews website published the <Sing Tao Daily> story: when 49-year-old Chinese worker Fu Zhihong went to work in Australia, a certain Shanghai agency forced him to sign a "no sexual intercourse" contract.

Afterwards, Phoenix TV, TOM, MOP and other forums carried this report too and thus caused netizens to wonder: "Who has the right to ban Chinese workers from having sexual intercourse?"  All the comments were premised upon the "banning of sexual intercourse," which "violates basic human rights."

Under what circumstances did Fu Zhihong sign the contract?  Why did the agency have a "no sexual intercourse" contract?  With so many questions in mind, the reporter began the investigation.  The outcome was surprising.

On November 5, the Australian edition of Hong Kong's <Sing Tao Daily> reported: "Labor senator Kim Carr recently revealed that a Chinese packaging worker Fu Zhihong was forced by a Shanghai employment company to sign a contract banning 'sexual intercourse.'"  The report said that Australian Labor Party senator Kim Carr presented an investigative report to the Senate.

"Isn't forbidding sexual intercourse a violation of human rights?" The Chinese Internet was buzzing with criticisms.  What kind of agency would come up with such a contractual clause?  Why did Fu Zhihong sign such a contract?

The reporter sent an email and a fax to Mr. Kim Carr to learn more about the case of Fu.  But his secretary said that he was on vacation and everything will have to wait until he returns.  As of the deadline for this article, Kim Carr has not responded.

The visa section of the Australian embassy in China said that the Australian Immigration Department has not delegated any organization to handle 457 visas.  The embassy only issues visas to applicants who have proof of employment from Australian employers.

So with which agency did Fu Zhihong sign the "no sexual intercourse" contract?

According to the information from <Sing Tao Daily>, Fu Zhihong signed the contract with the "Shanghai Overseas Employment Service."  Through Baidu, there was just one company with a match: the Shanghai Overseas Employment Service Limited Corporation.

The company's person-in-charge Manager Wang said that he has never heard of Fu Zhihong and his company does not have any "no sexual intercourse" contracts.  Was it some other company then?  The reporter located 23 employment agencies in Shanghai that provide services for overseas employment.

Of the remaining 22 companies, the reporter was able to contact 15 of them.  Five of the companies do not operate in Australia.  At the other ten companies, the managers responsible for Australian business all said that they have never arranged for a "Fu Zhihong" to get a work visa for Australia and they have never heard of a labor contract banning sexual intercourse.

The Shanghai Air Travel Overseas Employment Service's Chen Wenfeng said that agencies will not risk signing such a contract because the Australian Immigration Department will hold the agency responsible for anything that happens.  "There is no need to do that.  If you stay a full two years in Australia, you can apply for permanent residence in Australia.  Your family members can apply to join you afterwards.  This is the way to get permanent residence in Australian."

But the Shanghai Sida company person told the reporter: "It does not matter what kind of contract the Australian employer signs with the Chinese worker.  They will have to obey Australian law."  As to whether the agency would sign a contract "banning sexual intercourse," "the possibility cannot be excluded."

Next, the reporters went to the two government departments responsible for administering labor export to find out more.

According to information, the export labor market is administered by two departments: the Foreign Trade Commission is responsible for labor export while the Shanghai City Worker Protection Department is responsible for overseas employment.  The people at both departments said that they have never heard of the case of "Chinese laborer Fu Zhihong being forced to sign a contract that bans sexual intercourse."

"Since there is no standard procedure for Sino-Australian employment, I do not know if there is a contractual clause banning 'sexual intercourse," said the person at the Shanghai Foreign Trade Commission.  "It depends on whether the employer made such a demand, and it involves a question about nationality."

Mr. Lu at the Shanghai City Worker Protection Department's Archive Department refused our request for assistance to find out more about Fu Zhihong.  "Although we have files about overseas employment, the Worker Protection Department is not required to know whether the two parties signed contracts or approve the kinds of contracts involved."

According to Lawyer An from the Tang & Lin Legal Office in Australia, the nationality of a child in Australia is determined by the nationalities of the parents.

Even knowing that it is not necessary, will an Australian employee still include a clause "banning sexual intercourse"?  The named agency denied processing Fu Zhihong's case and it also denied having a contract "banning sexual intercourse".  So where did the "banning sexual intercourse" thing come from?

The reporter contacted the Australian office of <Sing Tao Daily>.  Their reporter Hu Jiandong said that the report about "Fu Zhihong" was translated by their chief editor Jia Wen from a Sydney Morning Herald article (see top of page).

Afterwards, the reporter read the original Sydney Morning Herald article forwarded by Hu Jiandong and saw: "Fu Zhi Hong, signed a contract with a Chinese employment agent banning ‘for personal reasons resulting in pregnancy or impregnating others ……"  This section had been translated as "banning sexual intercourse."

Concerning the question whether "banning for personal reasons resulting in pregnancy or impregnating" and "banning sexual intercourse" are the same thing, Hu Jiandong explained that he does not know why Jia Wen translated it that way.  Hu believed that the original English paragraph is not equivalent to "banning sexual intercourse."  Although the chief editor had followed the original intent and interpreted it as "banning sexual intercourse," Hu said frankly "I would use 'not causing someone else to become pregnant' instead of 'banning sexual intercourse'."  Another reporter Alex believed that the Hong Kong editor colloquialized the translation and created the error.