06/08/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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Migrant workers held in factory in slave-like conditions

In Shanxi, son of local Communist Party boss forces 32 migrant workers to work 20 years a day without pay, on a bread and water diet, without clean clothes, shoes or a chance to wash, guarded by men and dogs. One dies from injuries suffered because he was too slow at work. Police arrest wrongdoers.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A migrant worker was beaten to death and 31 others held captive and forced to work almost as slaves in an unlicensed brick factory in Caocheng, Hongdong County (Shanxi), owned by the son of the local Communist Party secretary.

The Shanxi Evening News reported yesterday that the labourers had to work unpaid from 5 am to 1 am the following day and were locked up in a small, dark room without bedding or heating. They were guarded by five men and six dogs and fed bread and cold water.

One of the workers, a native of Gansu, was hit over the head with a spade because he was “too slow” but all of them had scars from physical injuries, including burns from being forced to carry hot bricks on their backs.

When police raided the illegal brickworks in late May they found the foul-smelling workers wearing the same clothes for a year, most without shoes. They had not washed, had their hair cut or brushed their teeth.

When they were released, eight workers knew their names but could not say where they came from or the names of their parents.

The report said that the workers had been lured from Zhengzhou and Xian railway stations into working at the factory. They never attempted to escape because of tight controls and mistreatment.

The owner, Wang Binbin, the son of village party secretary Wang Dongji, was arrested. A supervisor, a guard and the alleged killer have been detained but five others are still on the run. The plant was opposite the party secretary's home who is also under investigation.

In China millions or rural migrants are forced to leave home seeking employment but are more often than not exploited to extremes with excessive workloads, low wages and dismal livings conditions. In many cases they are not even paid and factory owners and construction companies that employ them are protected by local authorities.

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