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Farmer Slated for Top Award

A woman farmer is a candidate for China's 2003 Economic Annual Figure, the first time a farmer has ever been nominated for the title since CCTV launched the award in 2000.

A panel of 27 former economic annual figures, 50 economic journalists, and 23 economists chose Xiong Deming for giving voice to some 94 million migrant workers.

She was named along with 22 leading economic figures in China, including Long Yongtu, secretary-general of the Bo'ao Forum for Asia, Ding Lei, founder of Netease, and Chen Yongzheng, vice president of Microsoft Corporation.

Xiong, 42, of Yunyang County in Chongqing, became famous for raising the issue of unpaid salaries with Premier Wen Jiabao. The issue became an instant media focus and attracted the attention of governments at various levels.

On Oct. 27, Xiong told Premier Wen that a construction company owed her husband 2,240 yuan (US$273) when the premier was visiting Xiong's village. With the help of the premier, Xiong received the money that night.

The incident has led to a series of actions against companies that delayed paying migrant workers.

Chongqing Municipal Government launched a 100-day inspection to detect unpaid salaries. Beijing construction authorities decided to disqualify companies in Beijing for not paying salaries. Wuxi City in eastern Jiangsu Province now forbids company heads from going abroad if their companies are found to owe salaries.

Statistics from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions reveal that employers across the country owe 100 billion yuan (US$12.1 billion) to the nation's huge army of 94 million migrant workers.

Families of the nation's migrant workers -- who are engaged mainly in the construction, catering, garment and shoe industries -- rely heavily on their earnings.

(Shenzhen Daily December 9, 2003)

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