U.N. airs rights concern about overseas Chinese work

The U.N. human rights commissioner has expressed concern that Chinese companies and financing institutions have little concern about human rights violations surrounding projects promoted and financed by them across different countries.

Chinese companies and institutions are also difficult to approach or insensitive to respond to concerns raised, said the commissioner, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky. He spoke in Beijing.

Costa Rica has seen the government of China erect a sports stadium in record time with imported labor but with little concern for Costa Rican labor laws.

The country also is negotiating for a loan that may be as much as $500 million to rebuild Ruta 32 from Limón to Río Frio. The project has been criticized because there has been little prior planning.

North of Costa Rica, Chinese interests that may well be arms of the central government seek to dig a canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific. There already have been popular protest there.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights is investigating the link between project financing and safeguards for human rights at a time when China has successfully led the creation of two banks, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank of BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

This concerns the United Nations because Chinese institutions and companies are funding more projects globally than the World Bank, the U.N.’s independent expert on finance and human rights said at a press conference.

There has been no immediate official Chinese reaction to Bohoslavsky’s comments.

Chinese-financed development projects have contributed in several countries to serious violations of human rights, including forced evictions, arbitrary detention, and violations of the right to life, the U.N. agency contends.

The U.N. agency is also worried about how the two new multilateral banks will deal with borrowing countries that fail to repay loans. They must work out a debt repayment solution “without attaching egregious conditionalities,” it said.

China’s original contract to get an agreement with Costa Rica on the highway project said, among other things, that the original written in Chinese would be the ruling document.

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