06/19/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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Slave labour: local Communist boss expelled from party

Media and ordinary people accuse police, labour inspectors, public officials and local authorities of “complicity” in human trafficking. Parents of missing children want rescue search to be broadened, including in mountainous areas of Shanxi Province

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Members of the Communist Party have been arrested and purged following revelations about their involvement in human trafficking and slave labour. Mainland media carried unprecedented hard-hitting criticism of police and public officials.

Wang Dongji, party secretary in the village of Caosheng in Hongdong County, was expelled from the Communist Party after the arrest of his son Wang Bingbing, owner of a local kiln, and Heng Tinghan, who had leased the business, for enslaving its workers.

In the meantime more and more people are speaking out. Zhang Shanlin, who found his son in the Wang kiln, was furious. “Wang Dongji's home is just a dozen metres from the kiln and workers told me he visited the kiln every three to five days. Of course he is involved and responsible.” To add insult to injury, “when I went to rescue him [his son], the local police asked me to first pay the medical fee before I could take him home,” he said, adding that police did nothing for the other “slaves”.

Chen Chenggong, 16, who escaped from the same brick kiln, told the Yanzhao Metropolitan Daily that he had seen other workers die from mistreatment.

The China Business News quoted members of Wang's family as saying that Wang Bingbing paid a total of 33,000 yuan to the police as “fines.”

Internet surfers posted messages on chat rooms and blogs saying they were ashamed and appalled by the slave trade and demanded punishment for local police, public officials, and labour inspectors.

But even if the government has ordered prompt arrests, the crackdown has done little to comfort many heart-broken parents who still want the search for their children to continue.

Chai Wei, who visited more than 100 brick kilns in Shanxi, said escaped children had told him that many of the child and mentally retarded workers were hidden by kiln operators in mountainous areas of the province.

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