Hundreds of police have been called in to keep the peace after a fight between Chinese and Bangladeshi workers at a power plant in south-central Bangladesh left a Chinese worker dead and at least seven others injured, officials said Wednesday.
The violence erupted late Tuesday after a Bangladeshi worker fell from a terrace at the plant, and amid rumors that a Chinese national had pushed him and later tried to cover up the death, a local police official told BenarNews.
“The Chinese worker injured in the clash died Wednesday morning at hospital,” said police superintendent Moinul Hasan, adding that the man, identified as electrician Jhan Yang Fang, 26, suffered head wounds and died of “excessive bleeding.”
The incident was the first time a foreign worker had been killed in a clash at a work place in Bangladesh, a labor leader said.
It also exposed apparent tensions among 7,000 Bangladeshi workers and 2,700 Chinese workers at the power plant being built with Chinese funds in Patuakhali, a district some 329 km (206 miles) south of Dhaka, where the Bangladesh government and Chinese investors are also constructing homes, roads and a deep sea port.
“A Bangladeshi worker Tuesday night died falling from a height in a power plant in the Payra port premises,” Hasan said.
“The angry Bangladeshi workers attacked the Chinese workers with sticks. The Chinese also carried sticks and attacked the Bangladeshi workers, too,” he said, confirming that the situation was now under control with “hundreds” of police on hand.
Dozens of Bangladeshi and Chinese workers were injured in the clash. Six Chinese and two Bangladeshis were treated at nearby Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital (SBMC), doctor Md Mahbubur Rahman told reporters.
‘We are shocked at this incident’
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Wednesday night told BenarNews that the police had been instructed to ensure safety of all Chinese workers and avert further clashes.
“Certainly, the police will file a case for death of the Chinese national. The police have been investigating why the Chinese worker died,” Asaduzzaman said.
“We have asked the police to contact the Chinese embassy to ascertain whether they want to conduct an autopsy of the Chinese national. If the Chinese embassy agrees, we will conduct an autopsy; otherwise not,” he said.
Chinese officials at Beijing’s embassy in Dhaka did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Beijing is now Bangladesh’s biggest foreign investor, official figures show, with most of the Chinese money invested in the power sector.
China’s overall investment of U.S. $1.03 billion in 2018 represented a 16-fold increase compared with its 2016 investment of just over $61 million.
The 1,320 megawatt-capacity Payra power plant is being built by a Chinese-Bangladesh consortium at a total cost close to U.S. $2 billion, according to Khaled Mahmood, chairman of the Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB).
“The Chinese government has been providing 85 percent of funds of the total cost as a loan,” he told BenarNews.
The plant, fueled by imported coal, will begin generating power in December 2019 and be fully functional by late 2022, according to North-West Power Generation Company Ltd, a consortium partner.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping unveiled the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan in 2013, saying that the massive infrastructure initiative of ports, pipelines and roads would accelerate development in many of the world’s poorest countries. Skeptics say the plan is aimed at regional dominance and control of trade.
Bangladesh’s government announced earlier this week that for the first time in its history, the country has a power surplus, after building 100 new power plants during the past 10 years.
The influx of Chinese investment has brought thousands of Chinese workers to Bangladesh.
Senior trade union leader Wazedul Islam Khan said authorities should have taken measures to prevent incidents such as the violence at Payra.
“There is no precedence in Bangladesh that a foreign worker is killed in a clash. We are shocked at this incident,” he told BenarNews.
“This will certainly tarnish the image of Bangladesh as a tolerant country,” Khan said.
Roni Toldanes in Washington contributed to this report.