A 26-year-old man admitted yesterday he set fire to a factory that killed 14 young workers because he still did not receive the 3,000 RMB ($482) in unpaid wages.
Liu Shuangyun told Guangdong TV in jail that he started the fire "because I couldn't get my salary", which he said he'd been owed when he left the factory three years ago.
When he was asked in the interview if he regretted or thought about the loss of life, he replied, "I didn't think about these things."
On Tuesday 14 people were killed and one seriously injured in Shantou, Guangdong, and all the dead were women aged 18 to 20, reported the Southern Metropolis Daily, but Xinhua said all but one were women.
In any event while Liu has been arrested, the report did not indicate what charges would be laid against him.
The incident underscores the frustrations migrant workers have in their poor treatment in factories, the low wages and how desperate they are even for a small amount of money. It also highlights how much of a safety hazard it is to work in such cramped conditions.
"The whole time, I've been very impulsive, very angry about this," Liu said during the television interview. "So I did these things."
During the interview he sat in a chair with his hands handcuffed. He explained the factory boss owed him 3,000 RMB. The reporter explained that after Liu quit the factory, the former boss would only give excuses for not paying him the owed wages.
And so for three years Liu has harboured his frustrations, and as a result they have manifested into a single-minded determination to exact revenge. There was no consideration of others.
It illustrates an extreme example, but one that demonstrates how desperate people are at the bottom of society. They work hard for their wages and are rightfully frustrated when they are not paid what they believe they are owed.
And with the rule of law so weak in China, these migrant workers have little recourse except to either lose out on the money or try to get it back. In this case it was a very violent one that was not worth 3,000 RMB.
The government needs to step in and ensure workers' rights are protected. That will be a long hard process that won't help Liu, but hopefully this incident is serious enough to merit discussion and hopefully better implementation of the law.
China cannot afford to keep repressing its people. They are tired of being discriminated against. Otherwise they will take the law into their hands which will yield an even more horrific result.