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Chinese bus driver jailed in Singapore over strike

By Agencies in Singapore | China Daily | Updated: 2012-12-04 08:01

A Chinese bus driver involved in Singapore's first industrial strike in 26 years was jailed for six weeks on Monday after he pleaded guilty, state prosecutors said.

Bao Fengshan, 38, a Chinese national, was charged for his role in the mass action, which the government has described as an illegal strike.

Media reports said Bao was not represented by a lawyer.

"(The driver) pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment," a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei on Monday said China attaches great importance to the case and urges Singapore to handle the case properly.

The ministry and Chinese embassy in Singapore will pay further attention to the development of the case and remain in communication with Singapore, Hong said.

Pushing for the jail term as a deterrent, the prosecution argued in court that although Bao was not an instigator of the strike, he was "far from a mere passive participant".

The prosecution said a lenient approach may encourage others to think that they can commit similar offenses and "conveniently express remorse to escape custodial sentence".

Four other Chinese drivers were charged last week for their involvement in the Nov 26 to 27 strike - the first in Singapore since 1986 - and were remanded for a week for further investigation.

They will be back in court on Thursday.

If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to a year, fined a maximum of S$2,000 ($1,640) - the equivalent of two months' wages - or both.

Singapore on Sunday deported 29 other drivers who took part in the strike after their work permits were revoked.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong confirmed that 29 Chinese bus drivers repatriated by Singapore have arrived home safely on Sunday.

The drivers, working for state-linked transport operator SMRT, staged the strike over a salary dispute and to demand better working conditions.

Strikes are illegal in the affluent island-state for workers in "essential services" such as transport unless they give 14 days' prior notice and meet other requirements.

A total of 171 drivers launched the strike on Nov 26 by refusing to report for work and staying in their dormitories, with the number falling to 88 on the second day.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said on Saturday the workers broke Singapore law, but also chided SMRT for not doing a better job in addressing their grievances.

SMRT has promised to look into the strikers' demands, fumigate their bedbug-infested dormitory rooms, find alternative housing in 2013 and open permanent communication lines with its Chinese workers.

AP-AFP-China Daily

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