A delivery driver working for an Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. subsidiary is in critical condition after setting himself on fire in protest over unpaid wages, according to information released Wednesday.
It is the latest incident highlighting accusations of mistreatment of employees in China's fast-growing takeaway-food sector.
Viral video on China's microblogging site Weibo showed rescuers using fire extinguishers to save Liu Jin as he burned on a street in Taizhou city in China's east Jiangsu Province.
Liu's self-immolation was a response to a pay dispute with food delivery service Ele.me, sources with knowledge of the matter told Financial Times. Liu resigned from his job to join rival food-delivery service Meituan Corp.
"I want my blood and sweat money back," the 48-year old said in remarks quoted by FT.
Reports said Liu sustained burns on "80% of his body" and was being treated at the Taizhou People's Hospital. The Taizhou local government didn't respond to requests for comment.
Liu now has medical bills of more than $150,000 (1 million yuan), according to the latest information that quotes a crowdfunding page started by his daughter on Shuidichou. It is asking for 500,000 yuan.
China's labor laws are under scrutiny with the country's delivery workers subjected to suspect working conditions, rights group China Labor Bulletin said.
"We are saddened by the tragic event," Ele.me told FT. "The situation is currently under investigation and we are unable to comment."
Shanghai-based Ele.me is China's second-largest on-demand delivery service after Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed Meituan.
Liu has two daughters and is the family's breadwinner, the crowdfunding page said.
In related news an Ele.me delivery driver collapsed and died on duty in Beijing in December.