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13 Jan 2021

Yuan Yang and Ryan McMorrow, Financial Times (UK)

China: Alibaba courier sets himself on fire in protest over unpaid wages

"Chinese courier sets fire to himself in protest over unpaid Alibaba wages" 12 January 2012

A delivery driver who had worked for Alibaba has set himself on fire in protest over unpaid wages, in the latest incident to highlight allegations of mistreatment of workers in China’s booming takeaway sector. [...]

Social media posts on Monday showed Liu Jin, a 45-year-old driver, setting himself on fire next to a Meituan delivery scooter in the eastern city of Taizhou. Videos shared on social media showed people rushing towards the man to put out the fire with extinguishers. “I want my blood and sweat money back,” Mr Liu said, covered in ash.

Mr Liu had been working for Ele.me, Alibaba’s food delivery platform, but recently signed up to Meituan, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation. Mr Liu experienced a pay dispute with Ele.me’s local partner in charge of drivers when he tried to resign, said one of the people. He then decided to set himself alight in protest.

Mr Liu now faces more than Rmb1m in medical bills to treat third-degree burns on 80 per cent of his body, according to a crowdfunding page set up by his daughter. [...]

The Taizhou local government did not respond to a request for comment.

Meituan declined to comment.

Ele.me said: “We are saddened by the tragic event. The situation is currently under investigation and we are unable to comment at this stage.”