In November 1997, Deng Wenping, a migrant worker from Sichuan province, got a job as a gem cutter at a factory owned by Perfect Gem & Pearl Manufacturing Co, a Hong Kong-invested enterprise in Boluo county, Huizhou city, Guangdong province. After falling seriously ill, Deng was admitted to the Guangdong Occupational Disease Hospital in December 2000. The Guangdong Province Occupational Illness Diagnosis and Appraisal Committee subsequently diagnosed him with stage II silicosis. In April 2001, under the auspices of the Boluo County Labour Bureau, Deng signed a mediation agreement with Perfect Gem and was forced to accept a lump-sum compensation, pension and hardship award of 100,000 yuan (he actually only got 90,000 yuan).
Deng then went back to his hometown in Sichuan for medical treatment, but soon afterwards found that his health was deteriorating rapidly and he was unable to afford the medical fees. In October 2002 he was diagnosed with stage II plus silicosis, and by April 2004 he was diagnosed with stage III silicosis, the terminal phase of the illness. Medical examinations in June 2003, March 2004 and March 2005 confirmed that Deng’s condition was rapidly deteriorating, and he was readmitted to the Guangdong Occupational Disease Hospital.
Deng Wenping’s wife, who had been employed in the same Perfect Gem factory, was sacked three days after he was diagnosed with silicosis. By early 2005, Deng’ medical expenses had reached 170,000 yuan. He and his wife were forced to sell their house in Sichuan but were still left with mounting medical debts, including hospital bills of more than 700 yuan a day. When Deng began to get sicker and sicker, he appealed twice to the Boluo County LDAC for arbitration and filed suit in the local court. Both the arbitration committee and the court turned him down on the grounds that he had “exceeded the [60-day] time limit for seeking arbitration” and the “original agreement [with the factory] was lawful and remains in force”.
In July 2005, after the chairman of Guangdong’s People’s Congress Standing Committee had instructed the Huizhou Municipal Intermediate Court to hear the case, Deng concluded a second mediation agreement with Perfect Gem under the auspices of the court. This time he was awarded a lump-sum compensation of 230,000 yuan. Four years elapsed between 2001, when Deng first sought arbitration from the Boluo County Labour Dispute Arbitration Committee, and 13 July 2005, when Huizhou Municipal Intermediate Court issued civil mediation letter (2005) Min-Zi-Zai-Zi No. 28. The legal process to obtain compensation involved two arbitration proceedings and a lawsuit. In January 2006, six months after he had been awarded the compensation he was entitled to, Deng succumbed to his illness in his hometown in Sichuan.