Victim of Tel Aviv bombing stayed to pay debts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 July, 2002, 12:00am

The Chinese labourer killed in Tel Aviv last week refused his family's entreaties to return home in April - when two mainland workers were killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem - because he had 300,000 yuan (HK$282,000) in debts.

Xu Hengyong, 39, from Pingtan in Fujian province, was killed in a suicide bombing as he was sitting in a coffee shop in Tel Aviv last Wednesday.

He had been in Israel since October, after signing a contract with a Fujian company and paying a total of 80,000 yuan for the visa, training and air ticket, the Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday.

He leaves a wife, three children, two brothers, a sister and two parents in their 70s, who live in a small house in Pingtan, and debts totalling 300,000 yuan. He was the family's main breadwinner.

After his seafood farming business failed, Xu went to work as a labourer in Xiamen, Zhangzhou and Guangzhou. In 2000, he went to Singapore, where he worked for a year before returning to Pingtan. After being jobless for several months, he borrowed money to go to Israel, where he was able to earn about 3,500 yuan a month.

After a suicide bomb in Jerusalem killed two Chinese workers in April, Xu's family urged him to come home but he said he could not, because of his huge debt.

His uncle said that Xu had run up the debt in setting up the seafood venture, which failed through his lack of business experience. Because the loan was private, it carried 20 per cent interest a year.

'Here, fish stocks have run down and there is no industry, so there are few jobs. Competition in China for work is fierce, so it is easier to go abroad,' his uncle said.

Two of those injured in Wednesday's bomb attack also come from Pingtan.

One is Xu Xiangmin, who has been operated on for an eye injury but has yet to call his family.

Xu, 25, an only son, has been working away from home for three years and has not returned to Pingtan in that time.

Thanks to the money he has sent back, his family has been able to build a comfortable house. After the April bomb attack, his family also urged him to come home at once, but he refused, saying he wanted to earn more money.

Tens of thousands from Pingtan have gone abroad to work, mainly to Singapore and Israel, some illegally.

A representative of Xu Hengyong's employment agency said they signed agreements for their workers to stay in Israel for two years.

However, many of the workers have refused to come back at the expiration of the contract, opting instead to work illegally in Israel because it is so hard to find work in China.