Chinese agency 'sold disabled workers into slave labour'

Discussion in 'China' started by A.V., Jan 8, 2011.

  1. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

    Feb 16, 2009
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    Moscow, russia
    An alleged trafficker sold workers with learning disabilities as slave labour to a factory grinding rocks into powder for building materials, Chinese media claimed today.

    The case in north-west Xinjiang province is the latest in a series of scandals over the exploitation of vulnerable workers.

    Eleven labourers, eight with learning disabilities, endured three years of gruelling physical labour with no pay, inadequate food and appalling living conditions, newspaper reports alleged.

    Wang Li, 40, from Heilongjiang province, told the Xinjiang Metropolitan newspaper he tried to escape twice but failed and was beaten.

    Another worker, Peng Gengui, said: "Normally, if you don't break the rules, you won't be beaten up." He added: "We only get to eat meat when we are too weak to work."

    Li Xinlin, owner of the factory in Dazhou city, told the Xinjiang Metropolitan he was employing the workers legally through an agency in south-west Sichuan province.

    "Zeng [Lingquan] set up the agency and sends workers across the country to allow those people who can't take care of themselves ... to make a living on their own," he said.

    While labourers themselves received nothing, Li also showed a contract stating that the agency was to receive a payment of 9,000 yuan (£850), plus 300 yuan a month for each labourer, with a 1,000 yuan compensation fee if a worker went missing.

    Police have been hunting Li, reports added. It was not clear whether the alleged trafficker was in custody.

    The newspaper reported that police could not intervene because the factory had a contract with a local authority in Sichuan, whichsaid it had no record of the agency but had sent a team to Xinjiang to investigate.

    Other reports alleged Zeng had previously sold people with learning disabilities to a brick factory in Hunan province.

    According to Legal Weekly newspaper, police founhd the labourers received no pay and were beaten and given electric shocks for not working fast enough.

    A police source said the case was "just the tip of the iceberg".

    "Every time this happens, we just feel angry," said Meng Weina, of a Beijing NGO, Hui Ling, which works with people with learning disabilities. "This has been talked about for many years. The government needs to do some concrete work to solve the problems. The police won't look into your case unless you report it, and apparently these people are unable to report to the police."

    In 2007, the Chinese government vowed to stamp out the problem after the Shanxi brick kiln case . More than 450 victims – including children as young as 14 – were reportedly kidnapped or tricked into working at the site.

    Last year, Chinese media said police had arrested alleged traffickers in Sichuan on suspicion of killing people with learning disabilities in faked mine accidents so they could blackmail bosses into paying compensation.

    Geoff Crothall of China Labour Bulletin, in Hongkong, workplaces relying on such labour "if not owned by local officials, have local officials in bed with them".

    He added: "These people are very vulnerable to traffickers and even if they are discovered – usually by investigative journalists – the authorities get involved in rescuing people but then just dump them back where they think they came from.

    "Often they are very traumatised and have no idea how to adjust back to normal society and they get trafficked again."

    Additional research by Lin Yi

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