Bangladesh police opened fire on demonstrating workers at the construction site of a Chinese-financed power plant, killing at least five people and injuring dozens more, officials said. According to Saiduzzman Chowdhury, a government administrator in the southern coastal town of Banshkhali, police began shooting after workers became angry.
They were demonstrating against unpaid salaries, long work hours, and perceived discrimination. Around 2,000 demonstrators hurled rocks and bricks at police, according to Banshkhali police chief Azizul Islam, who responded with gunfire.
The $2.5 billion, 1,200-megawatt coal power plant, which is 30% owned by Chinese engineering behemoth SEPCOIII, has been the site of other deadly protests in recent years. In 2016, police opened fire on villagers protesting, killing four people. In 2017, a man was killed when police opened fire on a demonstration.
Four bodies with bullet wounds were taken to Banshkhali’s main hospital after the latest demonstrations, according to a doctor there, while 12 others were being treated for wounds.
A fifth person was killed, and 19 people were wounded, including three police officers, who were admitted to a Chittagong hospital. According to human rights activists, the S. Alam Group owns 70% of the SS Power-One facility, which does not meet environmental impact requirements and was constructed without public consultation.
It is one of the most significant Chinese investments in Bangladesh. When President Xi Jinping visited in 2016, he made a number of announcements, including this one.
Subrata Kumar Bhowmick, executive director of S Alam, said the plant was 40 percent complete and that about 3,000 construction workers were working there. The employees were hired by a Chinese contractor, according to two company officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.