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Crane protesters jailed

They are sentenced to four weeks? jail for criminal trespass. -TNP
Elizabeth Law

Sun, Mar 24, 2013
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - He demanded his full salary of $2,000, a ticket back to China and an additional $2,000 in compensation in case he was arrested.

Chinese national Zhu Guilei, 24, was one of two men protesting his salary on top of tower cranes on Dec 6 last year.

On Thursday, Zhu and countryman Wu Xiaolin, 47, were sentenced to four weeks' jail for criminal trespass.

Court documents show that the former construction worker had been unhappy at work some time last year and wanted to quit.

He and Wu met project supervisor Pan Gexin on Dec 3 to discuss their outstanding salaries.

Mr Pan told the two that they would have to reimburse the company for water and electricity expenses they incurred since they had been working for Zhong Jiang (Singapore) International for less than a year.

Both Zhu and Wu were dissatisfied and said they would lodge a complaint with the authorities.

They went to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Dec 5, claiming they were owed outstanding salaries, but did not have any supporting documents.

The men agreed to return with the documents the following day.

On the early morning of Dec 6, however, Zhu decided to show his displeasure by perching on a crane until his demands were met.

He entered the work site in Jurong Port Road at around 6am and spent 15 minutes climbing the crane before calling compatriot Li Qi Ming, saying he was on top of a crane and that Mr Li could have his work clothes. Mr Li called the police.

When the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers arrived, SCDF officers could not set up an airbag because there were too many potholes in the ground, which was also unstable.

At about 7am, Zhu's project supervisor went to the site and tried to persuade Zhu to come down.

It was during that call that Zhu put in his demands.

Zhu later repeated his demand to police negotiators and asked for an additional $2,000 in case he was arrested. He refused to get off the crane until Mr Pan agreed to what he asked for and signed an agreement stating that.

A plastic bag containing the $4,000 in cash and Mr Pan's agreement was hoisted up the crane with a rope. Zhu was still unsatisfied, but climbed down at 2.45pm, when he was arrested and the $4,000 confiscated by the police.

Meanwhile, his compatriot, Wu, who arrived at the work site shortly after 6am, decided to climb up a crane to show his unhappiness, too.

After spending about nine hours atop the crane, he was helped down by SCDF officers and arrested on the ground.

When both men were first charged last December, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) came up with $20,000 to bail them out. Lawyer Ravinderpal Singh also agreed to represent the men for free.

In a written mitigation submitted to the court, he said that both men did not cause undue disruption to work on the site and that they had suffered considerably during their stay in Singapore.

Representatives from HOME were also in court on Thursday with the men, who had their belongings with them in a trolley bag and a duffle bag.

HOME's director of global partnerships and philanthropy Jolovan Wham told The New Paper that they will continue to help the men seek full compensation of their salary, which Zhong Jiang agreed would be $2,000.

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