Sacked migrant worker burns himself in front of supervisor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 February, 2009, 12:00am

A sacked Henan migrant worker was in critical condition in a Shenzhen hospital with burns to more than half of his body after he set himself alight in an electrical appliance factory yesterday morning because his Hong Kong employer refused to pay the statutory severance fee.

Fang Donglei, 32, set himself alight with paint thinner in front of his Hong Kong supervisor and was admitted to Shanjing Hospital in Baoan district before being transferred to Shenzhen 2nd People's Hospital for emergency treatment and skin grafts.

Doctors said more than 55 per cent of his body had been burned.

Mr Fang's wife, Li Xinxia, said her husband was sacked without reason or decent compensation, and chose to show his anger by burning himself. Ms Li said her husband had worked for Hong Kong-invested Welluxe Technology and Manufacturing for almost five years and under mainland law was eligible for a severance payout equal to five months' salary. But his employer had refused to pay.

'My husband told me several times that he felt aggrieved that he had worked diligently for the factory in the past few years but was suddenly fired without doing anything wrong. He vowed to get all severance money he deserved,' she said.

She said her husband returned to the factory yesterday but, according to co-workers, got into an argument with his former supervisor.

'The supervisor told him the maximum compensation would be one and a half months' salary and sneered at my husband when he threatened to burn himself with thinner, [saying] 'I bet that is not a bottle of thinner in your hand. You won't dare burn yourself',' Ms Li said. 'My husband received only basic emergency treatment and is in a coma. The factory paid just 8,000 yuan [HK$9,000] for the hospital deposit and we're still waiting for enough money for skin-graft surgery.'

Factory owner Ho Choi-fung confirmed the incident but refused to comment about what kind of help the company would give the couple.