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'Robbed of dignity' and half his brain: Zhang's Foxconn nightmare

via Sydney Morning Herald | Oct. 17, 2012
Apple's largest contract manufacturer has been pushing for a Chinese worker left brain-damaged in a factory accident to be removed from hospital in a case that throws a harsh new spotlight on labour rights in China.

"They kept sending me SMSs every day to get my son out of hospital and to appear before an injury assessment body or they will stop paying all expenses, including his medical fees and our living expenses," said Zhang's father, Zhang Guangde.

"You cannot imagine the suffering they put me through, how I had to fight every inch of the way just to get money so we can take care of our son," he added, speaking at his son's bedside at the Number 2 People's Hospital in Shenzhen.

Zhang was repairing a spotlight on an external wall at a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, when he received an electric shock and fell four metres to the ground. He has since undergone five operations, has lost his memory, is incontinent and requires careful, regular monitoring.

'Robbed of dignity'

Workers who are disabled in workplace accidents and covered by insurance are eligible for compensation payouts, once their disability is assessed and graded by a panel of medical experts. The assessment is done after medical treatment is finished.

Foxconn sent the text messages, and according to Zhang's father at one point briefly halted payments to the family, despite a provincial law stipulating that injured workers can remain in treatment for up to two years before they must be assessed for disability compensation.

The company, however, denied that it delayed or stopped payments, saying it paid them on time.

Zhang, whose case was alerted to Reuters by labour activists, has been in hospital since October 2011.

Doctors at the Number 2 People's Hospital declined to comment for this article, but Zhang's father, 50, said they had not indicated that he could be discharged and had said they needed to keep his son under observation after implanting a tube in his body to drain fluid from his brain cavity to his bladder.

"The doctor told me they needed to monitor his condition and that for such serious injuries, a person was allowed to be treated in hospital for up to two years. After that, assessors can order treatment to be prolonged," the father said.

labour activists in China say Zhang is just one of many thousands of Chinese workers who are left permanently disabled or chronically ill by workplace accidents, at the mercy of a system that often requires them and their families to fight degrading battles for treatment funding and compensation.


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