About Us   Jobs   Contact Us      


China Strikes at Root of Brick Kiln Slavery Scandal
    2007-06-21 01:19:23     Xinhua

North China's Shanxi Province has struck a blow at the root of illegal brick kilns by enacting new rules that ban cheap bricks, in the wake of the brickwork slavery scandal that has sparked outrage nationwide.

Solid clay bricks, which are made of clay from arable land in small kilns at very low cost, have been banned for use in municipal-level cities from the end of next year and will be replaced by environment-friendly cinder blocks, announced the Shanxi provincial government.

The decision comes as the government moves to attack the economic circuits that allow forced labor practices to exist.

Other measures have been taken to prevent forced labor cases from recurring.

Xi'an, a major city in northwest China, has permanently closed job agencies around its railway station that allegedly deceived rural workers and sent them to work as "slaves" in illegal brick kilns.

Police have arrested 168 people and are seeking more than 20 other suspects involved in the forced labor scandal.

Five of those arrested have been charged, including 42-year-old Heng Tinghan who was arrested in connection with the death of one worker and injuries of 20 others.

Authorities have begun investigating police and labor protection officials who colluded with kiln owners.

"Our past experiences have shown that dereliction of duty is always behind major accidents. Prosecutors should learn to investigate official negligence when major accidents are exposed by media," said an official with the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

The Ministry of Public Security also dispatched criminal investigation experts to Shanxi Province to guide and monitor the investigation.

The slave labor scandal hit the headlines after a "call for help" letter was posted on the Internet earlier this month by more than 400 parents in Henan who believed their missing children had been sold to the small brick kilns as slave workers.

A total of 532 people have been freed after police raided brick kilns and collieries in coal-rich Shanxi and neighboring Henan provinces.

The forced labor scandal shows how backward parts of this giant country are despite rapid economic development.

"The fact that China has become the world's fourth largest economy is better known to the international community, while problems such as a yawning income gap, poverty and unemployment are less visible," said Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor with Beijing University, adding that the case is anything but exceptional.

In fact, Chen Jianjiao, a deputy to the Hunan Provincial People's Congress, has helped free hundreds of workers during the past nine years. He wrote a letter to Premier Wen Jiabao at the end of last year, calling for a sweeping blitz to smoke out illegal brick kilns.

"China is a developing country undergoing a rapid transformation. Legislation sometimes lags behind the reality of what is going on in the nation's farms and workshops," said Xia Xueluan.

China has seen rapid economic growth since it launched its reform and opening-up policies in 1978, but the income gap between rural and urban areas has risen swiftly.

The per capita net income of Chinese farmers was 3,587 yuan (471 U.S.dollars) last year, while the per capita disposable income of urban residents was 11,759 yuan, about 3.2 times that of farmers.

Some farmers in poverty-stricken areas are tempted to make money unscrupulously.

An unnamed officer with the Shanxi public security department found during his inspection that some workers were still willing to stay and work at brick kilns despite harsh working conditions and meager wages, because they found it could be hard to land other jobs elsewhere.

Over the past few years, the government has taken a series of measures to limit the widening wealth gap, including eradicating agriculture taxes collected from farmers, providing subsidies to grain producers, and increasing the minimum wage to benefit millions of migrant workers.

A system of basic cost of living allowances for low-income people, set up to improve their living and working conditions, will be extended to cover all rural areas across the country this year.

Meanwhile, Xia suggested laws and regulations be drafted and improved to ensure the basic rights of workers and punish dereliction of duty by government departments.

"Some officials, bought off by illegal brick kiln owners, who are usually powerful and wealthy, tend to harbor them and turn a blind eye to their vicious conduct," he said, noting that exposure of this case should be a warning to them.

Xia also stressed the function of trade unions. "Workers need their own organization, which is not an appendage of government, to negotiate with their working units," he said.

Wal-Mart, which had refused to establish a trade union in its Chinese branches, founded its first trade union in Shanghai in August last year.

With the exemplary role Wal-Mart, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Pepsi and French bank BNP have all set up trade unions in China.



CRIENGLISH.com claims the copyright of all material and information produced originally by our staff. No person, organization and/or company shall reproduce, disseminate or broadcast the content in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of CRIENGLISH.com.

CRIENGLISH.com holds neither liability nor responsibility for materials attributed to any other source. Such information is provided as reportage and dissemination of information but does not necessarily reflect the opinion of or endorsement by CRI.

Also on our site
China | World
• Russian Natural Gas Supplies to Balkans Halted
• Three Israeli Soldiers Killed in Friendly Fire in Gaza
• Polanski's Lawyers Seek to Have Sex Case Dismissed
• Foreign Journalists still Not Allowed into Gaza
• US VP-elect Joe Biden to Visit Pakistan
• China Curbs Overseas Trips on Public Expense
Business | Sports | SciTech
• China Issues Long-awaited 3G Licenses
• Wahaha, Danone Start Trademark Arbitration
• GM Reports 31 Percent Sales Decline in U.S. Market
• Call for More Overseas Talents
• Bulgarian Figure Skating Champion Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Prison
• China's Mission to Mars Set for Take-off
Life | Showbiz
• A Seemingly Endless Scandal
• Asian Art Top Show Kicks off in Beijing
• Behind-the-Scene Photos of "Look for a Star"
• Universal Pictures Movies Set New B.O. Record in 2008
• Tan Dun's Deep Pool of talent
• Top 10 Shows in 2008 
• China Drive, Afternoon, 2009-01-07
• China Drive, Afternoon, 2009-01-06
• China Drive, Morning, 2009-01-06
• Official Property Declaration System
• India handed over evidence of Mumbai attacks to Pakistan
• EU delegation holds talks to push for a cease-fire in Gaza
• Mubarak Meets with EU Troika on Gaza Situation
• Bush says any Gaza ceasefire must stop Hamas rocket fire
View the Messages