31 more sentenced in slave labor case

By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-03 06:45

A further 31 people, including four government officials, were sentenced on Tuesday for their role in the forced labor scandal in North China's Shanxi Province in June.

The officials - industrial and commercial department employees Wei Shihong and Guo Weimin, and police officer Xi Zhiqiang from Hongtong county, plus labor and social security worker Shang Guangze from Yongji city - were each sentenced to jail terms of between two and three years after local courts found them guilty of power abuse and dereliction of duty.

The Shanxi Provincial High People's Court sentenced 27 others, including brickyard managers and foremen, to jail terms of up to five years for their use of child labor and the physical assault of workers.

To date, 95 Party officials in Shanxi have been punished over the slave labor scandal. Some were expelled from the Party and removed from government posts, while others received disciplinary warnings for lax supervision and dereliction of duty.

Gan Yisheng, a spokesman for the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, yesterday said officials accused of criminal acts had been referred to the judiciary departments.

"As far as I know, all the trials concerning the slave labor scandal have been conducted in accordance with the law," Gan told a press conference in Beijing.

"Although most of the officials we have punished were of a low rank, we are very serious about settling this case, by disciplining and bringing to justice those found to be guilty.

"We are not trying to replace national laws with Party rules."

In mid-July, 29 suspects involved in the scandal were sentenced by local courts.

Zhao Yanbing, a worker at a brick kiln in Hongtong county, was sentenced to death after being convicted of beating a mentally handicapped man to death in November.

The kiln's foreman, Heng Tinghan, who abducted 31 people and forced them to work long hours without pay, was given life imprisonment; while kiln boss Wang Bingbing, who was found guilty of illegally detaining the laborers, was given a nine-year sentence.

The scandal came to light after more than 400 parents posted an online petition and turned to reporters for help to find their missing children, many of whom were kidnapped or cheated into working at the Shanxi kilns.

To date, more than 570 people, including 41 children, have been rescued in Shanxi and neighboring Henan Province, and nearly 160 people have been arrested, sources said.

(China Daily 08/03/2007 page3)

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