Root out forced labor

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-15 06:54

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, Shanxi Province.

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 this month.

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 Shanxi.

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 well.

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 of 18.

(China Daily 06/15/2007 page10)

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