BEIJING - Those convicted of forcing others to labor may face penalties of up to seven years of imprisonment instead of only three years, as China's top legislature mulls cracking down on the crime.
A draft amendment to the Criminal Law was submitted Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, for its first reading.
The draft amendment states that those forcing others to labor through violence, coercion or the restriction of personal freedom be subject to, in addition to fines, a maximum seven years of imprisonment.
China's current Criminal Law imposes a maximum three years imprisonment for the crime.
Several forced labor scandals have come to the light in China in recent years.
In May 2009, police in eastern Anhui province arrested 10 for allegedly beating and forcing 32 mentally-handicapped people to work in brick kilns in slave-like conditions.
Another forced-labor scandal made headlines in 2007. Then, a brick-kiln boss in northern China's Shanxi province was found to have forced 1,340 people to labor, 367 of whom were mentally handicapped.
Liu Mingxiang, deputy dean at the Renmin University of China's Law School, said: "It was severe abuse in those notorious 'black brick kilns.'"
"The draft amendment designate the acts of the 'go-betweens' as criminal, too," Liu noted.
"If the draft amendment becomes law, the frequency of forced labor in China will drop, as the law will not only penalize those who force people to labor but also those who facilitate such practices," he said.