The cost of “child slaves”: 17 euros each, better again if mentally retarded
For years there have been groups dedicated to trafficking human beings. The police admits that it knew of factories using child labour, but fails to explain why it did not intervene. Children may have been stolen from other provinces.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Following the liberation of hundreds of slaves in Shanxi and Henan, a humiliating reality is emerging: in the China of the economic boom, there are groups who have been abducting and selling human beings into forced labour for years.  Investigations reveal that the child and adult “slaves” were kidnapped from many provinces.  The police has admitted that it has been aware of the problem for years, but failed to intervene.

Zhou Jinghuan in under three years circulated 3 thousand workers, selling them for a mere 170 Yuan (17 Euro each) to brick factories or mines in Henan.  In 2006, a report carried by state TV spoke of how human trafficking was widespread in Henan, but this coverage did not result in police intervention.

The television report spoke of Zhou, who “worked” in Zhengzhou and preferred the mentally retarded, easier to circulate and control, “obedient and happy if you give them some wine”: 30% of her merchandise.  Those who refuse to be sold are beaten; those who try to escape are forced to knell on broken glass.  Those who flee are often found near railway stations, given that they have no money or documents.  The report says that the slave trader has been arrested, but fails to speak about the aftermath.

Meanwhile yesterday, Zheng Baigang, director of the Ministry for Public Security admitted that Henan police discovered that child labour was flagrant in brick factories in 2004, following reports filed by the parents of kidnapped children.  At the time the police made preliminary investigations, but “stopped” when the factory “owners” fled to nearby Shanxi, because – Zheng explains - “the problem was solved in the province under the instructions of our leaders”. That pushes many to the conclusion that kidnapping and exploiting minors is not a series crime, if the authorities were contended by having “sent away” the perpetrators.  Either way it fails to explain why there have been no controls since then.

From information emerging in recent days it appears that human trafficking is widespread.  In Henan on June 8th Ji Xiulan a wanted criminal, was arrested.  Shanghai Daily reports that she had been hunted for years together with her husband for having trafficked at least 118 babies from Guangxi selling them on to Henan, Hubei and Anhui. She was discovered by chance in March 2003 when the car she was transporting 13 children broke down in Henan.

At least 68 parents have contacted media in Hebei fearing that their disappeared children may be among the slaves of the brick factory.