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  • mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato

    » 06/15/2007, 00.00


    Enslaved children working in brick kilns in Shanxi and Henan

    Police are investigating hundreds of cases involving abducted children and labourers held captive, beaten, underfed, and sometimes buried alive. Workers and families complain about the complicity between police, authorities and owners. A year from the Beijing Games, the country shows it is weak in enforcing child labour laws and protecting workers rights.

    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Reports indicate that workers in kilns were treated worse than slaves, forced to handle hot bricks, beaten if they did not work as expected, and reportedly even buried alive to remove the bodies. After years of complaints by families, some 35,000 police agents in Henan Province raided some 7,500 brick kilns and in four days freed 219 people, including 29 children, from slavery, arresting 120 owners and “guards”. In the Xinxiang area alone, north of Zhengzhou, police raided 20 brick kilns on Saturday and rescued 23 people, including 16 children.

    All the victims have the same story to tell: enticed with promises of a good job, they were beaten upon arrival, starved and forced to work 14-16 hours a day without pay. In one case some of the rescued labourers said that guards badly beat a labourer and then buried him alive to hide the body.

    A week ago 31 people were rescued from a kiln in Caosheng village, five suspects were detained. Its owner, Wang Bingbing, is the son of the village chief.

    The kiln, located across from his father’s house, was guarded by a taskmaster and dogs. Workers were forced to work 15 to 16 hours per day, and finish their meals of steamed bread and water within 15 minutes. In the freezing cold of winter, they were forced to sleep on the ground in a darkroom without a heating system.

    According to mainland media, at least a thousand children, the youngest only 8, disappeared near train or bus stations in Henan and were sold to work in the north-western province of Shanxi or in Henan itself.

    Making matters worse is the fact that there was nothing secret about the problem. Those who bought the bricks could not but see the hapless victims.

    Some of the slave labourers managed to escape and report what had happened to them to the police. However, all the available evidence suggests that the authorities did nothing, except put the escapees on a train bound for home.

    In an open letter published on the Tyania Club, one of China’s main online discussion groups, 400 men from Henan made an appeal for help in their bid to rescue their children from brickworks in the mountains of Shanxi where they had been taken after being abducted. They said they freed about 40 children and that police threatened them instead of helping them.

    Yang Aizhi, a 46-year-old mother, has also been searching for her 16-year-old son. She went to more than 100 kilns in Shanxi and discovered that "most kilns were forcing children to do hard labour.” She and other parents told their story to a TV station in Zhengzhou in early May.

    Qin Yuhai, deputy governor and police chief of Henan, said “we must do everything we can to fight human trafficking and rescue those being held captive.”

    Senior government leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, said they were shocked by the "horrific" stories and instructed the relevant departments and local authorities to investigate.

    However, child labour remains widespread in China and Beijing has not yet ratified the International Labour Organisation's Convention on Forced Labour or the Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour.

    Under China’s laws migrant workers are often denied the right to register as residents in the places where they work, which favours widespread illegality and makes it easier for people to disappear.

    After Playfair, an alliance of world trade unions, released a report this weak about Olympic merchandise being manufactured by child workers, an investigation by local authorities in Dongguan found that the Lekit Stationery Co. had hired 8 schoolchildren under 16 said that the children had not made Olympic souvenirs.

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    See also

    18/07/2007 CHINA
    Many slave factories still operating
    In many brick kilns no one has been arrested and slave owners are protected by the police, say parents of child slaves. Despite one foreman getting the death penalty for beating a worker to death, parents complain that many of those found guilty got light sentences. For example, one kiln owner gets only a few years.

    15/06/2007 CHINA
    Modern-day slaves are beaten and buried alive as police looks the other way
    Freed “slaves” tell their horrific stories. Rescued by relatives they talk about police indifference. Children lured with promises of jobs are kidnapped and forced to work like adults. Factory owners threaten and beat parents who try to rescue their children and those of other parents.

    18/06/2007 CHINA
    Slave “owners” busted in Shanxi and Henan brick kilns
    About 168 kidnappers, owners and guards involved in enslavement in brick factories and coal mines are arrested. Almost 500 “slaves” are freed, including 50 minors, some as young as eight years old. The actual number is probably much higher. Experts believe the problem to be widespread and to have been known to the authorities for quite some time.

    05/07/2007 CHINA
    Chinese slave labour trial opens in Shanxi
    Kiln owner and his associates are on trial. In his Caosheng factory 31 workers are freed, the youngest of which was 14. Local media say suspects should also be accused of human trafficking and child labour

    19/11/2007 CHINA
    Xinjiang brick factory closed down for “slavery”
    It stands accused of forcing workers, many of them children and mentally disabled, to over 20 hours of labour a day. Overtime was not paid and wages were months behind. The factory has been closed down and investigations are underway. A lawyer: the problem is the “laxity” of those who should be protecting workers rights.

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