The death of Hubei construction worker Hu Weiguo in Beijing this month is a bleak reminder of migrant workers' vulnerability when they demand wages they are due: sometimes it costs them their lives. Hu, who led a team of about 70 construction workers from Hubei province, had been chasing subcontractor Hubei Xiaogan Construction for 120,000 yuan of overdue wages for two years, but to no avail. He thought success was near at Christmas when he read newspaper reports saying the government was helping migrant workers to claim overdue wages. He asked his wife, Jin Qihui, to join him in Beijing to put pressure on Hubei Xiaogan, which kept turning him away. For days, the couple lodged complaints with various government departments. However, Hubei Xiaogan still kept delaying the payments. On January 2, Hu and his wife went to a construction site in Beijing being managed by Hubei Xiaogan. Ms Jin lost contact with Hu when she went to the toilet. Hours later, Hu's body was found in a pool of blood. A preliminary examination found that Hu had fallen from a high place. But more than two weeks after his death, Beijing police still have not determined if it was murder. Ms Jin believed her husband was murdered because he had received threats before he went to the site. She ruled out suicide. 'The guys had promised to pay, and why would my husband kill himself if he just started to hope that he would be paid?' she said. According to official figures, employers across the mainland owe migrant workers as much as 100 billion yuan in overdue wages - about 70 per cent of which is owed to construction workers. Migrant workers hired by the construction industry are usually paid once a year, before the Lunar New Year holidays. There are many reports of workers being intimidated or beaten up in their efforts to get paid. Some have resorted to setting themselves on fire to draw attention to their plight. Hu's death coincided with the government's unprecedented propaganda campaign this year - an attempt to assuage public grievances and avoid last year's suicide spree by desperate workers. After Hu's case was published by a local newspaper, China Central Television (CCTV) sent a team to document how the Hu family sought help from the authorities and how Beijing legal-aid lawyer Zhao Daying negotiated with the subcontractor. For days, representatives of Hubei Xiaogan simply avoided Ms Zhao and the family. When they finally met last Tuesday, a lawyer hired by the company spent hours querying every claim of work done by Hu's team for the company, no matter how small. No resolution came from the meeting, and Ms Jin and Hu's team of workers accused the company of insincerity. Although China's leaders have repeatedly declared the central government will do everything it can to help migrant workers get their pay, things can be very different at the local level. Yesterday, an official of the Construction Bureau in Beijing's Chaoyang District chided Ms Zhao for giving interviews to journalists. 'What do you mean by bringing along all these reporters?' the official said. 'And I tell you this is not a case of overdue wages. 'This is about illegal employment of workers, and disputes over wages,' he said, referring to the fact that Hu had not signed a contract with Hubei Xiaogan. Ms Zhao said it was unfair to blame migrant workers for not signing contracts, saying it was employers' responsibility. A mainland reporter said the Chaoyang district government was worried its image would be sullied if the case drew too much publicity. Although media under the jurisdiction of Beijing municipal authorities have been reluctant to report the case, newspapers outside the capital and central television have given prominent coverage to Hu's death and the difficulties his family and colleagues face. Hubei Communist Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng finally intervened on Friday and instructed the provincial government to give Ms Jin 120,000 yuan, including 80,000 yuan on Sunday so that she would leave Beijing and go home. The money, however, was more of a condolence payment. It was to be deducted from whatever payment Ms Jin received from Hubei Xiaogan when it settled its debts. Before she left Beijing, Ms Jin vowed to return to seek a verdict on her husband's death. 'I will not give up until there is a satisfactory result,' she said. 'What is a satisfactory result? It would be getting back the overdue wages and not letting my husband's death be in vain. 'I believe I will be even more miserable in the future. At least I can talk to people [about the case] now. 'Before, I was looking forward to seeing my husband every day. But now that hope is gone. I feel very heavy-hearted. 'That is why justice has to be done. It will be a consolation to my husband and it can relieve the sadness in the hearts of our family.'