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Nanny arson case drives calls for regulation

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THE recent high-profile arson case in Hangzhou, in East China’s Zhejiang province, in which a nanny allegedly murdered four people by setting a luxury apartment on fire, has once again highlighted China’s chaotic domestic worker market.

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The nanny, surnamed Mo, 34, was detained by Hangzhou police after she fled the 18th floor apartment after allegedly setting fire to it at 5 a.m. Thursday last week. Four victims were pronounced dead in hospital, and the case is still under investigation, Shangcheng district public security bureau in Hangzhou said.

According to the Hangzhou Daily, the four victims were Mo’s female client and her three children, two boys aged 6 and 11, and a girl aged 9. The woman’s husband was apparently away on business, local media said. The victims have not been named

Mo’s client reportedly hired her through a housekeeping agency in Shanghai a year ago, and got along well with Mo. Her client offered Mo a monthly salary of 7,500 yuan ($1,097), invited her to friends’ parties and even lent her 100,000 yuan to buy a house.

But Mo was allegedly addicted to gambling and was involved with loan sharks. She came to Hangzhou to work as a nanny from Dongguan, Guangdong province, and it is suspected that she was fleeing debts.

The case has attracted wide public attention. The hashtag “Hangzhou nanny sets apartment on fire” generated 53 million views on Weibo by press time, with netizens posting more than 50,000 comments.

Many netizens criticized Mo’s cruelty and blamed the housekeeping agency, which was not named, for not vetting employees sufficiently. Local residents held a vigil and lit candles for the victims outside the burned apartment building.

With a valid ID, anyone who is able to handle basic housework and communicate with clients can be a nanny in China. Although some housekeeping companies list requirements for job seekers’ health conditions, few actually check it, the Qianjiang Evening News reported.

Due to a lack of regulation in the domestic worker market, cases of domestic helpers killing clients, abusing babies and stealing property have been reported in recent years.

A domestic worker was sentenced to death in South China’s Guangdong province in May, 2016 for murdering her 70-year-old client by feeding her soup laced with sleeping pills and pesticide and then strangling her to death. She also allegedly attempted to kill another nine clients, but no charges were filed due to a lack of evidence, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

“The low quality of domestic workers is a result of the unregulated housekeeping market, which doesn’t thoroughly vet employees’ psychology, health and skills,” Li Chang’an, a professor from School of Public Administration at the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times.

Li said that housekeeping agencies should collect client feedback, and fire those with bad habits or who may threaten the life of clients. The government should step up supervision and approvals of companies that provide domestic workers, and stop those that use unqualified workers, Li said.

BY ZHANG HUI, GLOBAL TIMES

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