HK firm barred from jewel fair
A Hong Kong-based firm has been banned from this year's International Jewellery Show for failing to pay compensation to former employees who are dying from work-related illness.
Days ahead of the fair's opening yesterday, the Trade Development Council banned Worldwide Gems & Jewellery for breaching its rules on labour practices.
Worldwide Gems is the only exhibitor banned from the fair this year for failing to pay court-sanctioned compensation for workers' injuries.
Two former workers at the firm's pearl factory in Haifeng , Guangdong, developed terminal silicosis from inhaling tiny mineral particles.
After the men, He Chunguo and Cheng Zhuhua, both in their early 40s, were made redundant in 2006, they found that they were suffering from a work-related illness.
Both men were at a protest yesterday to demand they be paid in full the 600,000 yuan that a Guangdong court ordered Worldwide Gems to pay in a judgment issued in January last year.
Activist group Labour Action China staged the protest at the fair's venue, the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.
A local firm was the last exhibitor to be banned for similar reasons in 2010.
The council's rules say a firm will be banned from the fair if its labour practices harm the city's reputation and its standing as a fair-trading centre.
Cheng and Guo, who are close to death, said they were tired and had been paid less than 10,000 yuan by Worldwide Gems.
The firm began paying them in instalments of 3,000 yuan per month, but stopped after three months.
Suki Chung Ming-lai, executive director of Labour Action China, said it was illegal to pay court-sanctioned compensation, which should be a one-off payment, in instalments.
'Cheng and Guo do not have long to live,' she said. 'They need this money for medical care. And if they had received the money earlier, their illness might not be terminal.'
A record 3,100 exhibitors from 48 countries are taking part in this year's fair, up from 2,870 exhibitors last year.
Asi Abir, owner of an Israel-based diamond firm, said the Hong Kong show was the best location for conducting business with Asian customers.
'Our buyers are not only from mainland China, but also from Singapore, India, Qatar and so on,' he said. 'We have been preparing for this show for the past three months.'
The fair ends on Monday.
The number of buyers who attended the 2011 show, according to the Trade Development Council