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Investigators Probe into Workers' Deaths
Health officials from South China's Guangdong Province have rushed to Huizhou to investigate a poisoning incident that has already claimed three workers' lives.

The Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Health sent the medical team after the workers, all from a polishing workshop of the Huizhou Yinglishi Production Company, died of pneumoconiosis.

Many workers in Guangdong are threatened by the occupational disease, which started claiming its Huizhou victims in July.

The victims included Ma Fuman, 33, Zhang Xiang, 35, and Gou Chaolun, 29, all from outside Guangdong.

In the wake of the poisoning case, another four workers from the same workshop were also diagnosed as suffering from the killer disease.

In addition to the factory's poor working conditions, the company has no safety measures or guidelines for its workers.

Dust density in the polishing workshops has failed to meet the State's standards.

"Despite difficulties, the case will be investigated to the fullest extent," a Guangdong health bureau official said.

The bureau has also asked the local police force to join in investigating the case, which has attracted great concern from both the central and provincial government.

When he heard of the case, Huizhou Communist Party Secretary Xiao Zhiheng, who is studying at a Party school in Beijing, phoned Huizhou Mayor Liu Jinzhou, urging him to fully investigate the case. He also expressed his sympathy and concern for the victims' families.

A special task force headed by Deputy Mayor Xu Guang has been established to help handle the case and offer compensation to victims' families.

He said that the company's managers, and some hoodwinked workers, had prevented the true extent of the poisoning from coming to light.

A Guangdong Trade Unions official called for concrete measures to protect workers' legal interests.

Workers should also become more legally aware to protect their rights, the official said.

(China Daily December 26, 2002)

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