Media disclosure this week of the extremely harsh conditions suffered by some
migrant and under-age workers in illegal brick kilns in Northern Shanxi Province
and Central Henan Province shocked both the central government and society.
It is outrageous that transient rural laborers were forced to work 20 hours a
day and one was reportedly beaten to death by kiln owners in Hongtong County,
It is believed that more transient workers, both adults and minors, are still
enslaved in the sweat houses in the two provinces. Police in Henan Province
rescued 217 people, including 29 minors, who had been forced into labor earlier
The Guangzhou-based New Express newspaper reported that at least 400 boys as
young as 8 are still being tortured at kilns hidden deep in the mountains of
While condemning the despicable conduct, the public should find some relief
in the fact that the governments at different levels have already taken action
to address the criminal behavior.
Wang Zhaoguo, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National
People's Congress and president of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, has
ordered investigations into the kilns. Meanwhile local authorities allocated a
special fund to the local police forces, ordering them to apprehend those
believed to be behind the forced labor. The Hongtong County leadership at a
meeting yesterday also vowed to compensate the victims.
It is urgent for the authorities to uncover the whole picture of tyrannized
transient workers and illegal use of child labor in the two provinces, and
elsewhere. Those who are forced to labor in inhumane conditions should be found
and rescued as soon as possible.
It is important that the alleged offenders who had contempt for the law be
tried and, if found guilty, be punished under the law. Officials who are
responsible for slack supervision of labor conditions should be dealt with as
Like any civilized society and country under the rule of law, China has never
tolerated maltreatment of laborers or illegal use of child labor.
The Labor Law and Law on Protection of Minors are the foundation of our legal
system safeguarding the rights and interests of laborers and those under the age
(China Daily 06/15/2007 page10)