A Chinese national who works at a nickel smelter in Indonesia’s Southeast Sulawesi province will stand trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly drove a truck over and killed a colleague last month, police said Tuesday.
The incident came amid public opposition to the recent arrivals of 500 Chinese workers to the province, where they are employed at China-owned nickel smelters.
Lee Shang Bing, 35, allegedly drove a dump truck over the Indonesian mechanic, who was lying under the vehicle, and killed him while the two were doing repair work on July 18, said the head of the local police’s criminal investigation unit, Husni Abdi.
“We have sent the file to the prosecutor’s office,” Husni told BenarNews, adding that a date for Lee’s trial had not been decided.
Lee could face a maximum of five years in prison if convicted, Husni said.
Lee, who works as a mechanic at PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry (VDNI) in Konawe regency, had been assigned to repair the 10-wheel dump truck along with Yusran, a 30-year-old Indonesian coworker, Husni said.
“Lee asked his subordinate to fix it together. When Yusran was checking a cable under the truck, Lee started the engine and the truck ran over the victim,” Husni said.
“It was a case of negligence, either because of miscommunication or something else,” said Husni, adding that during the investigation, the suspect was accompanied by an interpreter from the company.
The company’s external affairs manager, Indrayanto, declined to comment on the case.
It was the second fatal incident involving Chinese workers in the province this year.
In May, Dong Ming, a Chinese worker at PT Obsidian Stainless Steel (OSS), was charged with manslaughter after his truck allegedly collided with a motorcycle carrying a fellow Chinese and a local colleague, killing them both.
A date for his trial has not been set, a police official said.
500 Chinese workers
Since June, about 500 Chinese workers have arrived at Konawe to work at VDNI and Obsidian, replacing other Chinese staff whose contracts had expired.
VDNI is a subsidiary of Delong Nickel Industry Co. Ltd, based in Jiangsu, China, while Obsidian is a unit of Singapore-based Hongkong Xiangyu Hansheng Co., Ltd.
The two companies are building nickel smelters in a 5,500-hectare (13,590-acre) industrial estate in Konawe.
Their arrivals prompted rallies by students and others who fear that the Chinese will take jobs from locals. They also said the new workers could spread coronavirus at a time when the country is struggling to contain the pandemic.
A director at the Ministry of Manpower, Aris Wahyudi, said the Chinese were skilled workers whose contracts required them to transfer their knowledge to local colleagues, and who would not steal their jobs.
He also said they had passed health examinations and did not have COVID-19.
“When their job is done, they will return to their country,” he told BenarNews.
He declined to comment on the state of work safety at the two projects.
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made improving the country’s infrastructure a priority during his second term in office and has been trying to woo Chinese investment.
Prior to his re-election last year, Jokowi attended the 2017 unveiling of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, an estimated U.S. $1 trillion-plus initiative to build a network of railways, ports and bridges across 70 countries.
A $6 billion high-speed railway linking Jakarta and Bandung is OBOR’s flagship project in Indonesia.
The perceived influx of Chinese workers into the country in recent years has caused unease among Indonesians, who fear that Chinese workers are stealing jobs from them.
In recent years, local media have reported about foreigners, most of them Chinese nationals, being caught working illegally in parts of the country.
Fears of foreigners taking over jobs from locals are often inflamed by baseless rumors spreading on social media and online messaging platforms that millions of Chinese have flooded the country.
The Manpower Ministry said in February that there were just over 40,000 Chinese workers in Indonesia.