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Children join parents' petition for overdue wages

(Xinhua)

08:44, August 20, 2012

DALI, Yunnan, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- A group of 13 children drew widespread attention in China last week by helping their parents claim wages held in arrears.

The children, the youngest of whom was five, stood in a line in downtown Dali, a major tourist destination of southwest China's Yunnan Province, Tuesday, holding posters that demanded immediate payment of their parents' overdue wages.

Their parents are all migrant construction workers at a development project in downtown Dali. Their wages have been held in arrears for six years.

"I'm Yu Xian. I want milk and cakes. Please pay my parents their wages," read a poster held by a 5-year-old boy.

Yu, from Qujing city of Yunnan, said his father had worked for many years in Dali. "He hasn't been home for a long time. I want him to get paid so that I can go to school," he said.

Five of the young petitioners have been newly admitted to college and are in dire need of money to cover their tuition.

"I've come to help my father claim his wages because my college tuition is a headache for the whole family," said Liu Qiang, a teenage girl from the southwestern Chongqing Municipality.

Liu has been admitted to Kunming University of Science and Technology in Yunnan's provincial capital and needs the money to pay her tuition in less than two weeks.

Delayed payment of wages even broke up some migrants' families.

Wu Fan, 8, said his parents divorced after his father failed to mail home any money for years. "My mom was certain he had squandered all the money gambling or taking drugs."

The plight of the children and their families caught widespread attention in the ancient city of Dali, which is always packed with tourists during the summer holidays.

Photos of the scene taken by tourists were posted online and triggered another outcry for migrants' rights, which has been a permanent issue in China over the past decade.

While the Internet users almost unanimously blamed the "profit-driven employer" for "deliberately holding the workers' wages in arrears", Xinhua reporters found the wage dispute was a result of project management loopholes in the real estate sector and the victims were victims in a larger-scale economic dispute.

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