09/08/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Police free 30 slaves from Henan brick kilns

Severely mentally disabled, kidnapped and sold for 300 Yuan, for years forced to work grueling shifts without pay and beatings for every transgression. Now the police are searching for their families, but some do not even know their names and have difficulty speaking. In China slavery is still a reality today, especially of the disabled and children.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Police have freed 30 disabled workers, used as slaves in illegal brick factories in Henan. China has failed to curb the exploitation of minors and disabled people in heavy labour, even though it announced zero tolerance and strict controls years ago.

The workers, released Sept. 5, have severe learning difficulties and some can not even form whole sentences. They were forced to work long shifts without being paid, some for more than 7 years, frequently beaten with for any disobedience and error.

At least 8 factory managers and recruiters were arrested: government sources report that among the alleged perpetrators was a boy of 14.

Now the police are trying to trace the families of the freed, but some do not even know to who they are or where they come from. The official newspaper China Daily reported that the victims were abducted from all over the country and sold to factories for a "price" of between 300 and 500 Yuan (33 to 55 euros).

The abduction of children and mentally disabled people is not uncommon in the country, brought from home and forced to work as slaves. In 2007, China was shocked by the discovery of thousands of workers treated as slaves in illegal brick kilns in Henan and Shanxi, subjected to constant beatings and deprivation of food, even with the complicity of the police and local leaders of the Communist Party. The total number of victims was never revealed, but a parliamentary inquiry has indicated around 53 thousand workers in Shanxi alone who were exploited in over two thousand brick kilns.

Since then the government has promised zero tolerance, but new cases continue to emerge, a sign of the spread of the phenomenon, and insufficient controls. In December 2010 a brick factory was closed in Xinjiang, where for 11 years workers with serious mental health problems were made to work in unacceptable conditions.

Also in December Lingquan Zeng, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference was arrested, accused along with his wife Li Shuqiong, of having sold at least 130 mentally disabled people in coal mines, chemical factories and construction sites throughout the country, obtaining more than 3 million yuan.

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