ZHENGZHOU -- Police from
central China's Henan Province say they have rescued 217 people, including 29
children, who had been working as slaves in brick kilns in the province.
Police said they detained 120 suspects including 13 in Zhengzhou, the
More than 35,000 police were dispatched to check 7,500 kilns in Henan during
a crackdown on June 9-12.
In the area around Xinxiang, a little to the north of Zhengzhou, police
raided 20 brick kilns on Saturday and rescued 23 people including 16 children.
Laborers in the kilns had been enticed there on various pretexts or
transported there by human traffickers. Upon arrival they were beaten, starved
and forced to work long hours without payment.
In the past two weeks, Chinese media have seized on the plight of children
held captive in brick kilns in neighboring Shanxi Province and photos of
distraught parents have appeared in the press.
Yang Aizhi, a 46-year-old mother, was one of the people who alerted the
public to what was going on.
Her 16-year-old son went missing on March 8 and she has been searching for
him ever since. On her travels she heard that the child had managed to escaped
from a kiln in Shanxi but she has still not set eyes on him.
Yang went to more than 100 kilns in Shanxi and discovered that "most kilns
force children to do hard labor," according to a report in Southern Weekly. Some
children even wore school uniforms.
When the children were too tired to push carts, they were whipped by
taskmasters, said Yang.
Yang tried to rescue some of the children but was threatened by kiln owners.
She was unable to find her son.
Yang and other parents who suspected their children had been kidnapped and
forced to work in illegal kilns went to a TV station in Zhengzhou with their
story in early May to make the evil practice known and garner public support.
Police have set up a special task force in Henan to investigate the scandal.
It will pursue its investigations across the border in Shanxi, according to
Qin Yuhai, vice governor and police chief of Henan, said "we must do
everything we can to fight human trafficking and rescue those held