More than 370 rescued from brick kiln
China's central government has been
alarmed by reports that rural migrant workers are forced to toil in extremely
harsh conditions in illegal brick kilns in northern Shanxi province.
A rural migrant laborer, right, looks back at a passerby
while pulling a cart of bricks at a kiln in Caosheng Village, Hongdong
County in Shanxi Province in this undated photo. [Shanxi Evening
The workers told the police they were forced to work 20 hours a day, while
one worker was allegedly beaten to death by a thug using a spade, and his body
buried in a nearby hill, a Shanxi newspaper reported.
Wang Zhaoguo, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National
People's Congress, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party
of China (CPC) Central Committee, has ordered investigations into the kilns.
Wang is also president of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, China's top
authority of workers' unions.
The local Shanxi Evening News reports Zhang Mingqi, a member of the
federation's secretariat, has arrived at Hongdong county in Shanxi province
where one of the allegedly offending kilns is located. The report says Zhang,
who personally went to the site of the kiln in Caosheng Village, has expressed
"great shock" over the "horrific" incident.
The Hongdong County public security department freed 31 workers in late May.
One worker was earlier beaten to death by a hired thug, who has now been
arrested by police, along with the son of Heng Tinghai, overseer of the kiln.
Heng and four other thugs still remain at large.
The Hongdong county government has allocated a special fund to the local
police force, ordering them to do everything to apprehend Heng, the alleged main
culprit in the case. The boss of the kiln is Wang Binbin, who contracted the
kiln to Heng. Wang is the son of the village's party chief.
The county leadership at a meeting on Wednesday said the government will pay
the wages workers were owed by the kiln and compensate them 1,000 yuan (US$131)
each. The compensation will not hinder the victims from filing civil law suits,
the government says.
However, the report says the government has so far succeeded in contacting
only seven workers, with the whereabouts of the rest unknown. An earlier report
by the newspaper said the 31 victims had already been sent away by train or bus
by the village heads entrusted by the local law enforcement authorities to deal
with the aftermath. The report said the labourers had been paid and some of the
seriously wounded were treated.
The Linfen city leadership has vowed the government will do its best to
contact each of the remaining workers.
Police in charge of the case told the Shanxi Evening News that 23 of the
workers said they were swindled and then sold to the kilns in Shanxi by human
traffickers at train stations in Zhengzhou, capital city of central China's
Henan province and Xi'an, of the western Shaanxi province. Another eight workers
cannot recall anything about themselves except their names. It is unknown if
they were already mentally disabled before they began work or were tortured to
such a stupefied state.
The slaves were reportedly locked in a bare room with no bed and stove, with
hired thugs and dogs patrolling outside, and fed only steam buns and cold water
and had to finish theirs meals in 15 minutes. The shoeless workers were even
forced to carry red-hot bricks from the kiln on their backs, leaving numerous
scalds on their bodies. Worst of all, the toiling laborers were subject to
frequent and brutal beatings by the hired thugs for no apparent reasons.
In a related development, the New Express newspaper reports 40 children were
rescued from slavery in Shanxi brick kilns, but hundreds more are believed to be
The paper reports 400 fathers of missing boys from the central province of
Henan had joined forces to find their sons at kilns hidden deep in the mountains
of neighboring Shanxi.
Boys as young as eight had been taken from bus and train stations and sold
for 500 yuan each to kilns where they were beaten, starved and forced to work 14
hours hauling bricks. At least 1,000 boys are being held in the kilns in Shanxi,
the paper says, quoting a reporter from the Henan provincial television station.
Henan police have launched a crackdown on forced labor
practices, but the report didn't say whether any results had been announced.
Meanwhile, the Henan police have reported the child labour case in the Shanxi
kilns to the Ministry of Public Security, asking them to direct police in Shanxi