Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) Wang Binyu, a migrant worker from Gansu convicted of killing four people in a dispute over back pay, was executed on Wednesday. The victims were his employer's representative and three of the latter's relatives.
The 27-year-old man was executed after the Higher People's Court in Ningxia upheld the death sentenced imposed by the Intermediate People's Court in Shizuishan in June, the People's Court Daily reported yesterday. The court rejected Wang's defence that he was driven to commit the crime after trying every other way to get the money owed to him.
Wang's execution brought to an end the most high-profile murder case this year.
In an interview with Xinhua after his arrest, he described his impoverished life, not much different from that any of the estimated 150 million migrant workers in China who are exploited in the name economic growth.
Wang had been a construction worker in Shizuishan for more than a year before May 11 when he quit. He demanded his unpaid wages and a meeting was brokered between Wang and his employer's representative, Wu Xinguo, in which Wu agreed to clear the money but only in five days. Wu also insisted Wang leave the firm's dormitory at the site and offered him 50 yuan in living expenses.
Wang's brother, Wang Binyin, was with him when he went to Wu's home to claim his wages. He said that his brother had been provoked. "If they didn't put so much pressure on my brother, how could he kill people for only 5,000 yuan? Wu Xinguo and his fellows cursed us, saying we were looking for death and we were like dogs," he said.
Wang Binyin said his father, Wang Liding, was the last person to see his brother before the execution, and Wang Binyu's last words were: "Go back, father. I can only say goodbye here."
Such cases are emerging amid a campaign launched by the government to resolve the widespread problem of back payments owed to migrants, especially workers in the construction industry (around 70 per cent of the total).
The campaign was launched in 2003 but it came to national attention last year during deliberations of the National People's Congress meeting when Premier Wen Jiabao promised that the issue of outstanding wages in the building sector would be "generally resolved" by 2007. The commitment meant any money owed before last year would be paid by February this year, and a system would be put in place to stop it mounting up.
According to government media, around 33 billion yuan (more than 3.3 billion Euros) in back pay have accumulated before last year had been paid to migrant workers. But new cases continue to occur.
"I know there are policies to protect our rights, but people at the local level don't execute [the policies]. Our rights still can't be protected," Wang said.
"We are working at great heights and can fall and die at an unguarded moment. Do you know how many migrant workers died while building those big towers?"
Du Yang, a labour economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said ensuring migrant workers get paid on time comes at a price for the government.
"For every 1,000 yuan in overdue wages collected, the government might have to spend 3,000 yuan," Mr Du said. "It is also an issue of whether there are enough people to supervise and regulate construction sites." Mr Du said some employers would withhold wagesinstead of giving them to workersif they knew they were not likely to get caught.