The Guardian: Police in China detain unemployed labourer over knife attack on billionaire

China Labour Bulletin is quoted in the following article. Copyright remains with the original publisher

Tania Branigan in Beijing

18 September 2013

Police have detained an unemployed labourer for attacking China's second-richest man after being refused a job, state media reported.

Zong Qinghou, the billionaire founder of food and drinks giant Wahaha, suffered knife wounds to his left hand.

The official news agency, Xinhua, said the 49-year-old suspect approached Zong near his home in Hangzhou, eastern China, on Friday to ask for work. When rebuffed, he slashed the businessman with a knife.

The worker, identified only by his surname, Yang, borrowed 30,000 yuan (£3,000) to travel to the city from his home in nearby Jiangsu earlier this year in search of a job. He reportedly turned to Zong after seeing the tycoon offer to help two migrant workers on a TV show.

Police said the assault damaged tendons in Zong's left hand. The businessman told Xinhua on Wednesday the injuries were minor and he was recovering well.

Zong was previously the richest man in China but was overtaken recently by Wang Jianlin, who owns the Dalian Wanda Group. The Hurun Rich List last week estimated Zong's fortune at 115bn yuan.

The 67-year-old is a self-made man who set up a small grocery store with a loan from relatives before moving into manufacturing. The Wahaha Group now employs almost 30,000 people.

Zong is known for his chainsmoking, earthy speech and frugal approach, taking pride in eating in the company canteen and shunning designer clothes.

In an interview last year he told Bloomberg: "For a long time, I couldn't even afford food and clothing … I climbed from the very bottom of society."

He said this year that China did not need to solve the problem of the gap between rich and poor, but to raise overall prosperity.

"Rich people should help everyone to become prosperous," he said. "If everyone is wealthy, society will be harmonious, and more comfortable."

The police statement offered few details of the man accused of assaulting Zong, beyond his search for a job. Older labourers often struggle to find work, with age counting against those as young as 30.

William Nee of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin said: "In the overall job market, supply and demand are pretty much meeting. But if you look at specific demographics there are pretty big imbalances.

"A lot of employers are looking for certain types of employees: often young people with certain vocational skills and perhaps training on modern machinery. People such as older migrant workers who may not be as literate are finding it hard to find work."

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