06/25/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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More than 53,000 enslaved workers used in brick kilns

Involvement of officials and policemen in the slave trade is increasingly evident. To repair the damage, China's legislature will likely pass a new labour law in the next few days. The parents of 400 missing children launch a new internet appeal.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Brick kilns and mines at the centre of a slave labour scandal used more than 53,000 illegal migrant workers, a Xinhua reported today. Fan Duixiang, a senior member of the Shanxi provincial congress, said investigations found that 2,036 of the 3,347 firms it had raided were operating without the necessary licences and illegally using 53,036 migrant workers.

Xinhua said added that lawmakers of the People’s National Congress were likely to pass a new labour law in the next few days to try and prevent a repeat of the scandal.

The top legislative body wants to stop the waves of criticism and accusations at government officials considered part of the slave labour network. In the last few days involvement by local officials and police in covering up and taking advantage of the network become more evident.

The Linfen city government in Shanxi province has prohibited all officials from going abroad until the end of the year, fearing culprits may try to flee the country.

So far nearly 600 people, including dozens of under-aged children, have been released from slavery in Shanxi and Henan province.

The rescue was sparked by an internet petition posted by concerned parents in early June that said up to 1,000 children were languishing in the brickyards and small mines, triggering widespread attention.

In the past two weeks thousands of policemen have raided more than 8,000 brickyards and small coal mines in the two provinces in an effort to end the slave labour.

Still, the parents of 400 missing children last week launched a fresh internet appeal, saying their children had still not turned up and expressing fears that the youths could have been hidden by brickyard bosses.

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