Party boss in slave-kiln village loses position

(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-19 13:38

A village leader has been expelled from the Communist Party of China for allowing his son to exploit slave laborers, many of them children, at an illegal kiln in Shanxi Province.

The village Party chief was identified as Wang Dongji, who was also twice a delegate to the Hongtong County People's Congress, Zhang Mingqi, a senior official in the All China Federation of Trade Unions, said at a news conference yesterday in Beijing.

Wang Dongji's son, Wang Bingbing, last year contracted the operation of his kiln to Heng Tinghan, who later used laborers who were tortured and forced to work without payment, authorities said.

"We are investigating whether other officials were involved," Zhang said.

In a rescue operation late last month, Shanxi police freed 31 slave workers at the kiln. They were too late to help one worker, who had been beaten to death, officers said.

Zhang said all those involved in the case have been detained, including Wang Bingbing and roughnecks who were hired to beat slave workers.

The local government began paying compensation to victims and sending apology letters, Zhang said.

"Authorities have contacted 23 victims and are looking for the remaining eight workers. They have also informed the family of the dead worker," Zhang said.

In addition, the kiln's assets have been frozen.

The workers were heavily scarred when they were rescued. They had wounds and burns all over their bodies after being forced to carry hot bricks and walk barefoot in the kiln.

The laborers were forced to work long hours and were given only poor food. Dogs were used to prevent them from escaping.

Heng, who was caught on Saturday in Hubei Province after a 20,000 yuan (US$2,623) reward had been posted, was among 168 suspects allegedly involved in the slave labor scandal that has swept north and central China.

The atrocities came to light after 400 parents posted a joint letter on domestic Websites, calling for help to rescue their children, who were lured or kidnapped to work in illegal kilns and mines.

Police in Shanxi and Henan provinces then began an investigation that led to the release of 568 forced laborers.

In Shanxi, police freed 351 people, including 22 under age 18, after raiding more than 3,700 small brick kilns and coal mines.

Police in Henan said they rescued 217 slave laborers, including 29 minors and 10 who are mentally handicapped.

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