A defendant in China's largest work injury claim was jailed for refusing to carry out the court's order to pay compensation.
The Taishun County People's Court in eastern China's Zhejiang Province sentenced on Thursday Wang Yunfu to three year's imprisonment for his deliberate failure to fulfil court's order.
Wang was among the defendants sued in 2001 by a group of 148 farmers, mostly from Taishun County, for an unprecedented damage compensation of 208 million yuan (US$28.8 million) for the lung disease they said they developed when working as tunnel diggers in 1993.
According to the farmers, they were employed by the defendants (there are a total of 10 defendants in the case including the Taishun County Tunnel Engineering Company, the Taishun County Local Civil Engineering Company, the transport department of the Liaoning Provincial government, as well as several individuals) in 1993 to dig the Wujialiang Tunnel on the highway linking Shenyang and Benxi cities, both in northeast China's Liaoning Province.
They claim that the quartzite in the tunnel has a silicon dioxide content as high as 97.6 percent, but the defendants took no preventive measures to effectively protect the farmers from silicosis, a disease resulting from the chronic inhalation of silicon dust and leading to persistent coughing, shortness of breath and tuberculosis.
Nine of the employed farmers had died from the disease.
The Intermediate People's Court in Wenzhou city ruled later that year that the farmer plaintiffs should get a work injury compensation of more than 60 million yuan, rather than the 208 million yuan they wanted.
Wang was sentenced to five years in jail from 2002 for malpractice, and to pay 10 million yuan for compensation, the rest of the compensation falls onto government departments in Liaoning Province.
But so far Wang have only paid 16 percent of his due fine while he was "economically ample to pay for the entire compensation", according to the Intermediate People's Court in Wenzhou city.
"His action has severely hindered the lives of the farmers, and is a direct violation of Chinese criminal law," said a report of the court.
According to Chinese criminal law, whoever refuses to carry out legally effective judgments or orders of people's courts while he has ability to do so shall, if the circumstances are serious, be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of up to three years, criminal detention or a fine.