Meng Zhengwei, a 21-year-old worker from Guizhou province, was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering the toddler son of his former employer. Meng was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court on 16 February 2017.
The boss had failed to pay Meng the agreed amount of money in wages, prompting him to take desperate measures.
According Guangzhou Daily’s report, when he was informed by relatives back in his hometown of his father’s sudden death, Meng quit his job on 7 December 2015, after working for three months at a family-owned leather factory in the outskirts of the city.
An illiterate man who had not signed any form of labour contract with his employer, Meng didn’t know what rights he was entitled to and silently accepted his supervisor’s offer of merely 1,500 yuan, instead of 3,000, a figure both parties agreed upon when he took the job. In 2015, the legal minimum wage in the city of Guangzhou was 1,550 yuan per month.
As he spent the next few days in a cheap hostel, Meng’s anger grew and finally spurred him to kidnap the two-year-old son of his former boss. “After (I left the factory), I felt very bad and the money was far from enough for me to go back to my hometown,” Meng said.
On the night of 20 December, Meng took the boy away from the grandparents and called his supervisor demanding 20,000 yuan ransom from the boss. Police investigators said Meng didn’t even try to hide his identity while contacting either the supervisor or other family members, according to another local newspaper Nanfang Daily.
After the phone call, Meng started panicking, and the boy’s crying made him strangle the toddler to death in a roadside ditch. Afterwards, Meng tried twice to tell the family of his bank account number in order to receive the ransom. However, he was so nervous that in both instances he failed to send the right number. Meng was arrested the day after in the neighbouring city of Dongguan.
Standing as the defendant in court, the pale-faced and slim-built man said that the death penalty relieved him. “I admit to everything I did, because the nightmares haunt me all the time,” Meng said. “I regretted so much and I would not appeal the death sentence.”
After the verdict was given, police investigators told the local newspaper that the tragedy put some social problems under the limelight, such as Meng being paid less than the legal minimum wage and the absence of a labour contract. Despite the serious criminal repercussions of this case, the Guangzhou employer was found of no wrongdoings.
It is not the first time that labour disputes lead to fatal tragedy in China and it probably won't be the last. In January 2016, after two years of efforts to get his fellow construction workers paid finally failed, a contractor named Ma Yongping set a bus on fire and killed 18 in the north-western city of Yinchuan. Ma was sentenced to death on 3 July 2016 and subsequently executed on 23 December.