Kristine Kwok

Jun 23, 2009

Two mainland engineers who survived a kidnapping by the Taleban in Pakistan last year have sued a leading mainland telecommunications-equipment supplier.
Zhang Guo , 29, and Long Xiaowei , 28, are both unemployed and still recovering from injuries sustained in the ordeal.

They said Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE (SEHK: 0763)) had not fulfilled its responsibilities for what they had gone through since last August.

They also sued Jiangbo Group, a company based in Xian with which they signed contracts, for failing to pay their salaries and medical fees. ZTE outsourced the project in Pakistan to Jiangbo.

The pair were kidnapped by Pakistani Taleban militants last year in the notorious northwestern region of Dir, while returning from work to their dormitory.

Mr Zhang managed to escape in mid-October, while Mr Long injured his ankle during the attempt and was recaptured by the Taleban. He was released only in February.

"For ordinary men like us, such an experience is a nightmare that will remain in our memory forever," said Mr Zhang, who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. But only when the two men returned to their homes in Shaanxi province did they realise that their salaries had not been properly paid and their medical fees were not being covered by Jiangbo.

Mr Long said Jiangbo had agreed to pay them on a monthly basis but after their kidnapping paid on a daily basis, which translated to a wage reduction of almost one-third.

A mandatory insurance fee of roughly 1,000 yuan (HK$1,135) each, which mainland law requires companies to sign for employees sent overseas, was deducted from their salaries, Mr Long said.

Mr Zhang said he had to cut short his stay in a hospital to treat his emotional problems because he could not afford the costs, which Jiangbo refused to pay.

Mr Long said he was advised by doctors to undergo an operation to remove a steel plate in his ankle months ago, "but Jiangbo would not even talk about this with me".

ZTE said in a statement that it would seek to resolve the problem rationally and would work to achieve consensus with all the parties involved. ZTE said it had been closely following the incident and the aftermath and had been urging Jiangbo to settle the issues with the two engineers.

Jiangbo was not available for comment yesterday.

Although Mr Zhang and Mr Long were not hired by ZTE, their lawyer Yang Jun said the company was sued as well because it still had liability, as the engineers went to Pakistan for its project.

ZTE reported a net profit of more than 1.6 billion yuan in 2008.

Source: South China Morning Post

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