Taizhou authorities launch investigation into deliveryman who set himself on fire
Published: Jan 13, 2021 10:08 PM

A delivery man Photo: VCG


Bringing China's delivery sector back into the spotlight, local government bodies in Hailing district of Taizhou city, East China's Jiangsu Province, started an investigation into an Alibaba delivery driver who set himself on fire on Monday allegedly in protest over unpaid wages. 

However, it has not been confirmed by the authorities if the incident occurred due to a labor dispute. 

The 48-year-old deliveryman named Liu Jin poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire outside a distribution station of Eleme, Alibaba's flagship takeaway-ordering app in China, in Hailing district. The fire was immediately put out by nearby operators and Liu was rushed to hospital. 

An employee from the labor protection department of the Chengzhong sub-district of Hailing district confirmed with the Global Times on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity, that several departments of the sub-district have participated in the investigation. 

"Since the investigation has not been completed and the reason for the incident has not been identified, we cannot confirm that it was caused by a labor dispute," the employee said. 

The publicity department of the Jiangsu Taizhou People's Hospital, where the deliveryman is receiving treatment, confirmed with the Global Times on Wednesday that the man is still in ICU. 

A staffer from the publicity department of the Hailing district people's government told the Global Times that the local police are still verifying the cause of the incident and the deliveryman is "over the hump" and no longer in a critical condition. 

Liu Xiaoqian, the burnt deliveryman's daughter, launched a crowdfunding campaign on Shuidichou, a famous crowdfunding platform in China on Monday, seeking treatment funds for his father, whom she claimed had a labor dispute with Eleme. 

She raised 500,048 yuan ($77,395) through the channel, which has since closed after her crowdfunding goal was achieved. 

According to Liu, her father was diagnosed with second and third degree burns covering 80 percent of his body, in addition to respiratory burns.

Liu only just graduated and has no savings, while her younger sister is still in college. 

Deliverymen working for Fengniao, a sub-brand of delivery services under Eleme, do not sign labor contracts directly with Fengniao, according to a Caixin report on Wednesday. They are either paid through the mobile application where they take orders or by Fengniao's franchises or companies to which Fengniao out-sources its business. 

Statistics from Fengniao show that the platform has over 3 million delivery drivers with 4.5 million daily orders on average. 

This incident brought Eleme back again into the media spotlight as concerns grow over allegations of mistreatment of deliverymen in China's takeaway sector. 

A 43-year-old deliveryman surnamed Han died on December 21 while delivering food for Eleme. The platform alleged that Han had no connection with the platform but was willing to provide 2,000 yuan to his family out of compassion, which was eventually raised to a total of 600,000 yuan under pressure from the public.