|Chinese Communist police have no trouble arresting people for daring to use the internet|
or to prevent the formation of labor unions. But somehow they "look the other way" when
factory owners run slave labor camps.
We like to think humans have evolved, but with the blink of an eye we revert to the Savage
Authorities in central China said they had rescued 30 workers with severe learning difficulties used as slaves in illegal brick factories, in the nation's latest case of labor abuse.
State media on Wednesday reported that some of the victims, who were also regularly beaten, had toiled for more than seven years without pay in Henan province -- already the scene of a huge slavery scandal in 2007.
"These 30 people are mentally disabled, and were taken from their home town and tricked into working," a spokesman for the provincial police, surnamed Zhang, told AFP.
Chinese slavery video
He said authorities freed them on Sunday and were in the process of locating their families. But he added that some of the victims' disabilities were so severe they were not able to identify them.
"In that case, they are being sheltered by the departments that rescued them," he said.
The official China Daily newspaper, quoting a television channel that exposed the scandal, said the victims were mostly abducted and sold to factory bosses for 300 to 500 yuan ($47 to $78).
An undercover TV station sting
The unusually public raids Monday were prompted by a report on Henan provincial television by a journalist who had gone undercover posing as a disabled man at a train station, where he was grabbed by a recruiter and says he was sold to a brick factory.
Some of the slave laborers were reported to be blind. They had been held as long as seven years, working without pay. They had been beaten with belts on the back and the groin, according to the television report.
Eight people were arrested.
The television reporter, Cui Songwang, went undercover in mid-August. He spent three hours making bricks, during which, he said, he was beaten almost constantly. One of the people who beat him with a belt was a teenager who police later said was only 14.
Liu Yuxia, a civil affairs official in Dengfeng, one of the towns where a brick kiln was raided, said it was unclear whether the rescued workers would be able to testify against the factory owners because of their mental impairment.
"The men cannot tell their story well. They can't say how long they were working or for whom. Some of them can't even tell you where they are from," she said.
|53,000 migrant workers have been employed in more than |
2,000 illegal brick factories in Shanxi alone.
The rescues are getting considerable publicity in Chinese media, but advocates for the disabled are not optimistic about the prospects for longer-lasting reforms.
"These cases happen again and again. The police never follow up; nothing really happens," Zhang Wei, a Beijing lawyer who runs a nonprofit organization helping the disabled, said Wednesday.
In a scandal that shocked the nation in 2007, thousands of people were found to be working without pay in brick factories in Henan and further north in Shanxi province.
They had been subjected to regular beatings and near-starvation, with the alleged collusion of some local officials and police.
Although no official numbers have been reported on how many were enslaved, a parliamentary investigation said some 53,000 migrant workers had been employed in more than 2,000 illegal brick factories in Shanxi alone.
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