Henan Case Underscores Depth of China’s Slavery Problem
Posted by Author on September 7, 2011
(WSJ)- Police in central China’s Henan province said they have rescued 30 mentally handicapped people who had been enslaved at illegal brick kilns, in the latest case of slavery in China, a problem that continues in the country despite government pledges to eradicate it.
Zhang Xiaolei, director of the province’s propaganda office, said three people were in police custody in connection with the operation of the brick kilns, while several others remained at large. He said authorities learned of the brick kilns through recent local media reports.
Mr. Zhang and state-run media said the workers had severe mental illnesses and had been unable to provide police with their identities or where they were from. The state-run China Daily newspaper reported some of the victims had been enslaved for more than seven years.
The most recent case underscored the difficultly facing the government in eliminating slavery in the world’s second largest economy, where living standards are generally rising. The most-vulnerable in Chinese society, including those with mental disabilities, can be particularly vulnerable due to a lack of services.
The problem is particularly acute in the poor rural hinterlands of Henan and elsewhere in China. In 2007, authorities rescued more than 500 people from illegal brick kilns and coal mines and promised to eliminate the practice. About 45,000 police had fanned out across Henan and nearby Shanxi provinces in search of the enslaved workers, many of them young people who had left their hometowns in search of work.
In a separate case last year, a man in the central province of Sichuan was arrested after police said he set up a fake shelter for those with mental disabilities only then to sell at least 70 people to factories across the country.
The government promotes its work in cases where enslaved people are rescued, though police action in many of the cases has been spurred only by grassroots Internet campaigns and local media reporting. Following news of the most recent Henan case, many Internet users who took to posting messages on the popular Weibo microblogging service were thrilled by the rescues. Still, others were left jaded that slavery continues in a country of growing global economic and political clout.
“China was liberated 60 years,” wrote one Weibo user, borrowing a term often used by the government to describe the Communist Party’s rise to power. “But this place was just liberated today.”
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This entry was posted on September 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm and is filed under Central China, China, Henan, Law, Life, News, People, Social, Worker, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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