Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chinese brick kiln found to be enslaving intellectually disabled people, juveniles

From AFP:

BEIJING — Staff at a Chinese brick kiln used the mentally disabled as slave labour, controlling them with electric batons and killing one in a case concealed for more than a year, state media said on Jan. 26.

One person was sentenced to life in prison last September by a court in the city of Wuhan in central Hubei province over the activities at the illegal kiln, which were uncovered in mid-2008, the Changjiang Daily reported.

The report did not explain why the case was only coming to light now.

However, revelations of a huge brick kiln slave labour scandal in 2007 in the northern provinces of Shanxi and Henan shocked the nation, and were accompanied by widespread accusations that corrupt officials involved in the practice had been shielded from prosecution.

The Changjiang Daily said one of the mentally disabled forced labourers in Hubei was beaten with sticks and shocked with electric batons after he refused to calm down one day in July 2008.

The unidentified victim subsequently died of cardiac and respiratory failure, the report said.

Police and court officials in Huangpi, the district of Wuhan where the kiln was located, refused comment when contacted by AFP on Tuesday.

More than 20 mentally disabled people or juvenile beggars were lured to the kiln with promises of work, but then were assaulted when they demanded their pay or tried to leave, the newspaper report said.

At least one forced labourer was as young as 14, it said.

One kiln supervisor, Lin Jinguan, was sentenced to life in prison in September, while six others received prison sentences of between two and 11 years, it added.

Authorities have announced that hundreds of slave labourers were rescued from kilns during the 2007 scandal, which deeply embarrassed China as it sought to project a modern image for the August 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Many of those forced into labour were children. At least one person was reported sentenced to death and dozens jailed over that scandal.