A Miner's Dream, by Sim Chi Yin


He Quangui, ended his long battle in 2015 at the age of 42. In the last 10, along with his woman Mi Shixiu fought against silicosis, a lung desease he contracted during the 10 years he worked in gold mining in the Henan region of China. In this country, the prevalence of silicosis is very high, an occupational disease resulting from the continued inhalation of silica powders during extraction work, with an estimated 6 million Chinese workers being affected by it. It progresses slowly, making patients' breathing increasingly difficult and painful, due to silica particles deposited in the lungs over several years of unprotected work.

He Quangui, like many other Chinese, is a migrant worker, a definition that is usually based on the same type of provenance and social reality, encompassing young people from the mountainous and rural regions who have been looking for work in large industrial and urban centers since the last decades. Mines are one of these poles of attraction, calling thousands of workers across the country.

Mining operations previously controlled by the Chinese state are now subject to private operating concessions, which in this case limits the access of workers to health care, a right to which workers of state enterprises are entitled. Tracing of occupational diseases is thus practically non-existent, with the discovery of many of them already at an advanced stage. Companies are only responsible for minor accidents, leaving out the sharing of expenses in chronic diseases that affect workers exposed to a danger they did not even know existed.

The working conditions are very precarious and there is no use of any protective equipment like masks, something that in the case of silicosis could make a huge difference. Treatment costs have to be fully borne by families, who often only have the salary income from the mines, which puts them in a situation of enormous fragility and impotence.

In this brutal testimony brought to us by Sim Chi Yin, He Quangui does something like a declaration for future memory, representing himself, but also the many others who find themselves in the same situation.

With a huge physical weakness, He directly interpellates the president of China, Xi Jinping, claiming, through the telling of his own reality, the lack of support and care to which these migrant workers like himself are subject to, and thus integrating every day the many notebooks, where, as he writes, the names of those who die because of occupational diseases most of them often without any assistance , will continuously increase the paper sheets.

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