China asks for its workers' rights to be safeguarded

China has asked Singapore to safeguard the rights and interests of Chinese workers according to local laws, the China News Service (CNS) reported.

The news agency said the Chinese Embassy in Singapore, in response to a question, disclosed that it had contacted the Ministry of Manpower in connection with a strike by more than 100 Chinese SMRT bus drivers.

The Singapore Government on Tuesday classified the strike as illegal.

CNS said the embassy was monitoring the situation closely, and had sent officials to take part in mediation.

The labour dispute has sparked outrage in China, with many people supporting the drivers.

Since news of the drivers' action broke on Monday, the two biggest microblogging sites - Sina and Tencent Weibo - have attracted more than 1,000 comments.

Many criticised SMRT for treating the bus drivers unfairly and paying them too little.

Sina Weibo user Xu Zhixin wrote: "It is normal to have pay differences between Singaporean and foreign workers, who require lodging from the company.

"But the SMRT management lacks the human touch. How can it deduct the drivers' wages when they take medical leave?"

Tencent Weibo user Xu Liqiang said: "We have to seek justice for the Chinese drivers. Why should they be deemed inferior to other foreigners?"

Others were peeved by Singaporeans who said the bus drivers should return home if they were unhappy working in Singapore.

"Troublesome Singaporeans should also 'scram' out of China!" anonymous user Chinese Revival Forever posted on the popular Tianya forum.

Another, citing the recent launch of China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning, said: "That is why we need to build more aircraft carriers and send them to Singapore's doorsteps.

"We shall see if they would still dare not to raise the wages."

Some blamed the Chinese government for not creating enough good jobs.

"Poverty allows others to look down on you," wrote Tianya user Apple Iphone 000. "If large numbers of Singaporeans have to come and work in China, we Chinese would be the proud ones."

Despite the online noise, China's media stayed mostly silent about the driver dispute in Singapore.

Only three other news reports appeared on Tuesday - from the official Xinhua news agency, Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV and China Radio International.

Additional reporting by Kor Kian Beng