Factory boss in standoff with rights protesters

10 Sept 2004, CARRIE CHAN
South China Morning Post

    Gold Peak Industries chairman and chief executive Victor Lo Chung-wing was forced into a standoff yesterday with about 30 labour and human rights representatives.  

  The group was protesting over the company's allegedly inadequate protection for workers at its battery plant in Huizhou, many of whom were suffering from the effects of high cadmium levels.  

  Mr Lo received a complaint letter at the entrance of the JW Marriot hotel after the group tried in vain to storm the company's annual general meeting.  

  The protesters said they were dissatisfied with Mr Lo's empty promises and vowed to escalate their campaign at Polytechnic University, where  Mr Lo is council chairman.   

  In July, about 100 workers at the GP Batteries plant were admitted to hospital with high levels of cadmium. Twenty were found to be in a serious condition.    

  Globalisation Monitor editor Poon Man-hon demanded the firm hire independent doctors to examine its workers.   

  Previously, the company said the employees' cadmium levels had passed government tests. But when the workers went to other doctors for similar tests, the levels were much higher, he said.   

  Mr Poon pointed out workers were provided only with paper masks prior to the high cadmium levels being exposed.   

  Mr Lo agreed his company would shoulder responsibility for compensation, promising to consider the need for a medical fund and examinations by private doctors.  

  However, he refused to commit to a timetable.  

   Mr Lo denied accusations that his company had reprimanded employees who complained to the central government about a lack of protection at the factory.   

  We would never pressurise workers in that manner, he said.   
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