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Chinese police arrest suspect in forced-labor scandal
Updated: 2008-08-27 20:14

ZHENGZHOU - A foreman, suspected of beating and treating people like slaves to work in brick kilns in Shanxi Province, was arrested on Tuesday morning in central China's Henan Province. He had been on the national police's most wanted list for more than a year, the local authority said on Wednesday.

Zhang Zhenjiang, a villager of Shengwan Town, Xichuan County, was arrested in his wife's rented room at around 5 a.m. in the seat of the county, a Henan Provincial Public Security Department official said.

He was suspected of illegally employing and forcing people to work in brick kilns in Yuncheng City, Shanxi Province. A Class B warrant was issued in June 2007 for his arrest by the Ministry of Public Security after the scandal was exposed that month.

Upon his capture, Zhang fully confessed to police, the official said.

The forced-labor scandal made headlines all over China last year, sparking outrage among the public and arousing great concern from top leaders. The workers were forced to toil long hours without payment in brickyards, mines and other jobs.

In June 2007, private brick kilns owners in the province were found abusing workers, many of whom were underage. In total, 95 officials in the province were punished in the wake of the scandal.

In addition, 29 brick kiln bosses, foremen, supervisors and other workers were tried by courts in seven separate cases. They received sentences ranging from jail terms to death penalty.

In total, 1,340 people, 367 of whom were mentally handicapped, had been rescued from the forced labor at several kiln works, an official joint investigation group reported last August.