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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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Archive for the ‘Child Labour’ Category

China: End Child Labor in State Schools

Posted by Author on December 5, 2007


‘Work and Study’ Programs Put Hundreds of Thousands of Children at Risk

Human Rights Watch, December 3, 2007-

(New York, December 3, 2007) – The Chinese government should abolish the use of income-generating child labor schemes in middle and junior high schools because of their chronic abuses, Human Rights Watch said today. Many programs interfere with children’s education, lack basic health and safety guarantees, and involve long hours and dangerous work.

“China claims that it is fighting child labor, and repeatedly cites its legal prohibition against the practice as proof,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But the government actively violates its own prohibitions by running large programs through the school system that use child labor, lack sufficient health and safety guarantees, and exploit loopholes in domestic labor laws.”

Under “Work and Study” programs regulated by the Ministry of Education, schools in impoverished areas are encouraged to set up income-generating activities to make up for budgetary shortfalls. According to official statistical material from the Ministry of Education seen by Human Rights Watch, more than 400,000 middle and junior high schools, which are for children ages 12 to 16, nationwide are running agricultural and manufacturing schemes. In 2004, proceeds from Work and Study programs generated over 10 billion yuan (US$1.25 billion), the statistics show.

Chinese law prohibits the use of child of labor under age 16 but stipulates that children may be employed under special circumstances, such as in sports or in the arts, or if their “occupational training” and “educational labor” does not adversely affect their personal health and safety. Regulations that govern Work and Study programs in middle and junior high schools prohibit hazardous work and stress that “education must come first,” but fail to provide a clear definition of the acceptable kind, intensity, and overall time duration of this special category of work.

The majority of schools limit these schemes to seasonal agricultural work (such as growing and harvesting crops), improving school facilities, or producing small handicrafts over summer breaks, either independently or through contract with outside employers.

But overly vague Work and Study regulations and poor supervision have led to widespread abuse of the system by schools and employers alike. Children as young as 12 have been employed in heavy agricultural and hazardous construction work. Others have been dispatched to local factories for weeks or months of “summer employment.” Some schools have turned into full-fledged workshops to produce local handiwork or foodstuff while relegating teaching to a few hours a week.

In recent years, numerous cases of children working in abusive conditions under the guise of Work and Study programs have been documented, with problems ranging from long working hours, dangerous working conditions, low salaries, and a range of health and safety hazards.

In July 2007, more than 100 middle and junior high school children were found in a factory making cardboard boxes in Panyu district, near Guangzhou. They worked eight-hour days in different shifts, the first starting at 8 a.m. and the last finishing at 11 p.m. The children were housed in the factory’s dormitory and paid 2.4 yuan per hour (US$0.30).

In June 2007, 500 children from a middle school in the western province of Sichuan were discovered working 14-hour shifts in a factory in Dongguan, Guangdong Province. Their school had contracted them to the company for summer employment. The children complained of poor living conditions, including crowded dormitories and insufficient food, and an array of work-induced health problems. Children were fined for production mistakes.

And in August 2006, local media reported that local school authorities in Maoming Municipality, Guangdong province, had arranged for 200 schoolchildren from poor families to work over the summer in factories in the neighboring manufacturing centers of Dongguan and Shenzhen. The children were working 11-hour days, with no rest on the weekend. Many complained of health problems, such as flu-like syndromes, persistent headaches, and fevers. A 16-year-old girl reportedly died as a result of untreated encephalitis. She had been complaining of high fever for three days but was not allowed to rest.

Budgetary pressures at the local level may account for worsening practices, with local government often slashing education and health budgets when revenues decline. Chinese law mandates that the state provide all children with nine years of free and compulsory education, but in practice most schools, especially in poor areas, cannot function without collecting tuition fees. The Ministry of Education says the Work and Study system is designed to generate revenue that enables schools from poverty-stricken areas to operate, and to subsidize children from poor families who cannot afford school-related fees. Local education departments at the prefectural or district level routinely fix revenue targets that must be met by individual schools, even though doing so is banned by the central government. In recent years, increasing budgetary pressures on schools have contributed to their “out-contracting” of students to employers looking for a cheap and easily manipulated workforce.

Hard labor, low pay, and hazardous work conditions are more prevalent in poor and remote rural areas. Schools, often with the encouragement of local education authorities, have sent children from poor areas in Sichuan, Hunan, Anhui, Guangxi, Guizhou, and Shaanxi to factories in the coastal regions for “summer employment.”

In remote areas such as Yunnan, Gansu, and Xinjiang, local employers have hired children for heavy agricultural work during the harvests. In December 2006, the Chinese media reported “severe violations” of Work and Study regulations in Minqin county, near Wuwei municipality (Gansu Province), including hazardous work conditions, unsafe transportation, and long working hours. In one incident, a middle school pupil died after falling from the truck used by the school to bring the children to the work fields. In April 2006, primary schoolchildren from Luoshan, Henan Province, were dispatched to a local tea farm to pick tea. A local teacher explained that it was the only way for the school to meet operating costs.

“Inequalities in China’s education system are out of control,” Richardson said. “Children from poor areas not only face vastly inferior resources, now they must also engage in heavy work to finance the schools they attend. The responsibility for adequately funding compulsory education should not fall on the shoulders of the children themselves.”

The State Council, China’s cabinet, has acknowledged the existence of severe defects in the Work and Study system in primary and middle schools. In 2006, prompted by an accident in which 131 children were poisoned after ingesting oil made from castor-oil seeds their school was making under contract from a local company, the central government issued a set of detailed instructions urging greater compliance with educational, health, and safety standards in Work and Study programs. “Labor that exceeds the bodily strength of children, involves toxic or dangerous material, or harms the development of the child are strictly prohibited,” the instructions said.

Other unauthorized practices detailed by the document include: the imposition of revenue targets by education departments on schools, and by schools on individual classes and schoolchildren; fining children who fall short of work quotas; children working overlong hours; and companies’ manipulation of the Work and Study label to employ underage workers.

Yet these new instructions have so-far failed to remove the potential for abuse. In 2006, authorities in the northwestern province of Xinjiang banned the employment of elementary and middle school children to pick cotton because it is excessively physically demanding. However, children were then redirected to other types of work that press reports describe as only marginally less taxing, such as picking beetroots, tomatoes, and other vegetables in state-run farms, and collecting recycling material. In summer 2007, factories in Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Fujian provinces were found using child labor under bogus Work and Study schemes, prompting domestic experts to urge the government to close this loophole in the legal prohibition of child labor.

Human Rights Watch said that little information about Work and Study schemes was publicly available, making it difficult to precisely assess the extent of unsafe forms of child labor in the education system. Most statistical information published by the government aggregates data for middle and junior high schools with figures for high school vocational training and student employment schemes for university students, which all fall under the same qingong jianxue (Work and Study) appellation. The results of a nationwide survey about middle and junior high school Work and Study programs conducted by the Ministry of Education from October 2006 to February 2007 have not been made public.

State censorship of the media has also contributed to the problem. The Ministry of Labor continues to classify statistics and details about child labor cases as “state secrets.” In September 2006, reporters from CCTV, China’s national TV network, documented the employment of children as young as 8 to harvest corn for a local employer. Children were shown carrying heavy loads and working in fields for the entire day. The broadcast sparked public outcry, but, rather than encouraging public debate of the problem, the story was instead removed from the CCTV’s website.

Human Rights Watch said the government should immediately stop programs that put children at risk, release all the information and data about these programs in view of reforming the labor laws, and publicly announce how it will phase out the system.

China is a party to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 182, which prohibit work that is hazardous or interferes with a child’s education.

“China’s own laws and international obligations recognize that children shouldn’t be working,” said Richardson. “But the government allows dangerous work by underage children if their schools organize it. This really raises doubts about China’s commitment to eliminating child labor.”

Original report from Human Rights Watch

Posted in Business, Child Labour, Children, China, Economy, employment, Guangdong, Guangzhou, Health, Human Rights, Law, Life, News, People, products, Report, SE China, Shenzhen, Sichuan, Student, SW China, World | 1 Comment »

Report: Failings of China’s School System is The Root of Child Labour

Posted by Author on September 4, 2007


Press release, China Labour Bulletin

Small Hands: A survey report on Child Labour in China provides a timely, detailed and insightful analysis of the growing problem of child labour in China. Based on research carried out on the ground in 2005, the report explores both the demand for child labour in China and the supply of child labour stemming from serious failings in the rural school system.

Our researchers talked to government labour officials, school teachers and administrators, factory owners, child workers and their parents to build up a picture of the living and working conditions of child labourers and explore the reasons why these children drop out of school early and go into work.

Because child workers have no ability to protect themselves, they are generally paid less, work longer hours and live in poorer conditions than adult workers. Moreover, because child labour is illegal, very often workers and their employers will develop covert alliances to avoid detection by government and law enforcement agencies, thus driving the problem further underground.

While poverty is clearly an important factor in the creation of child labour, the report identifies the failings of China’s school system as the root cause of the problem. China’s investment in education is only 2.7 per cent of its GDP, less than half the United Nations’ recommended level of funding. Primary and secondary schools in poor rural counties receive minimal, if any, government funding, and students’ parents have for many years provided the bulk of the funding through the payment of various “miscellaneous fees.” This forces parents to make a cost/benefit analysis between the cost of their child’s education, the potential benefits of further education and the immediate benefits of dropping out of school early finding work. Our researchers discovered the drop out rate for middle school students in some areas was around 40 per cent or even higher.

The problem is exacerbated by a school curriculum at both primary and secondary levels that emphasizes academic excellence over broad-based vocational training. Many students drop out simply because they cannot keep-up; while others are weeded out by schools anxious to show off high examination pass rates. And even if rural students do make it all the way to university, they now have very little chance of a good job on graduation, making the benefits of continuing education even more questionable and remote.

In the final section of the report, China Labour Bulletin recommends that the laws on child labour be simplified and clarified and that officials are both equipped and encouraged to effectively implement the law. In order to limit and eventually eliminate the supply of child labour, CLB recommends that the government provide sufficient funding to ensure that the compulsory stages of education in China are genuinely free to all, and that a much greater role be given to non-governmental organizations and social groups in tackling and eroding the socio-economic foundations of child labour supply.

To read the report in full click here (in .PDF).

Original report from China Labour Bulletin

Posted in Child Labour, Children, China, Economy, Education, employment, Law, News, People, Social, sweatshop, Worker, World | Comments Off on Report: Failings of China’s School System is The Root of Child Labour

Workers’ Rights Group Accuses China Toy Factories of Labor Abuses

Posted by Author on August 23, 2007


By DAVID BARBOZA, New York Times, August 22, 2007-

SHANGHAI, Aug. 21 — A workers’ rights group in the United States released a report on Tuesday detailing what it called brutal conditions and illegal practices in Chinese toy factories, many of which supply some of the world’s biggest brand-name toy makers, including Walt Disney and Hasbro.

China Labor Watch, which is based in New York, said that it had investigated eight Chinese factories over the last year and discovered widespread labor violations, including the hiring of under-age workers, mandatory overtime, unsafe working conditions and managers who engaged in verbal abuse and sexual harassment.

In one instance, the group said, a toy factory in the impoverished Guangxi Province hired 1,000 junior high school students. Chinese law forbids employers to hire children under the age of 16.

“Shortsighted policies drive corporations like Hasbro to turn a blind eye to safety — and to ignore the labor conditions in their supplier factories,” the group said in its report.

The report is being issued at a time of growing concern about the quality and safety of Chinese exports, and after a series of large toy recalls involving Chinese-made goods.

The Chinese government, however, has insisted that most Chinese exports are safe and of good quality, and multinational corporations say they have stepped up the monitoring and auditing of Chinese factories.

But some workers’ rights groups say tainted and defective products are a result of a factory system that allows big corporations to outsource to contractors here who routinely violate Chinese labor laws and cheat workers to reduce costs and increase profits.

China Labor Watch assigned part of the blame to multinational corporations that focus on keeping costs low.

Hasbro said in a statement that it would conduct a thorough investigation into the issues raised in the report and would “act swiftly and decisively in making any necessary changes.”

“Hasbro has an excellent record in the arena of product safety and, in light of the recent news from China, we have increased the intensity of our ongoing safety review efforts when it comes to any of our products manufactured both here and overseas,” the statement said.

Disney said in a statement that it and its affiliates take allegations of unfair labor practices seriously, investigate them thoroughly and take remedial action. “We have a firm commitment to the safety and well-being of workers, and fair and just labor standards,” a spokeswoman, Alannah Goss, said in an e-mail statement, according to Reuters.

The report by China Labor Watch is only the latest in a series of reports issued by nongovernmental organizations over the last few years detailing worker abuse in Chinese factories.

Last June, a group of trade unions and nongovernmental organizations accused several Chinese companies that make merchandise for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games of using under-age workers and forcing many to work overtime in unsafe conditions.

The Beijing Olympic organizing committee later revoked the license of at least one company that made Olympic merchandise, saying the company had hired some under-age workers and did not have employee contracts.

Many other companies, including Apple and McDonald’s, have also been the subject of reports by Chinese journalists and workers’ rights groups here that accuse the companies of violating Chinese labor laws. The companies have denied violating the law and said that if they are alerted to violations, they will act.

In response to China Labor Watch’s report, the International Council of Toy Industries issued a statement Tuesday saying that it is working with factory management in countries like China to ensure workers are treated fairly. “Our objective is to alleviate working conditions like those described in the report in order to make sure that workers don’t bear the brunt of poor factory management practices and keep their jobs,” Alan Hassenfeld, a spokesman for the organization, said in the statement.

Many companies, particularly toy companies, have independent auditors who make unannounced visits to factories with contracts from the companies. But critics say auditors are sometimes fooled by factory managers, who are coached in how to deal with them.

– Original report from New York Times : U.S. Group Accuses Chinese Toy Factories of Labor Abuses

Posted in Business, Child Labour, Children, China, Company, Economy, employment, Guangxi, Health, Law, Life, News, People, Report, Rural, Social, South China, sweatshop, Worker, World | Comments Off on Workers’ Rights Group Accuses China Toy Factories of Labor Abuses

photos: Disabled Children, Beggars, Slavery, or Money Machine?

Posted by Author on July 23, 2007


After read the report by John Ray from The Observer – China’s Disabled Children Are Sold Into Slavery As Beggars– I remembered I used to read a Chinese report on the similar topic, which I was reluctant to believe.

Now again I find out the Chinese story and here’s some pictures to share with you.

Disabled Children, Sold Into Slavery As Beggars

(The beggar’s feet tied together by a string and put from the back up on the shoulder)

beggars (2)

( All photos are from Watching China website) 

Posted in Child Labour, Children, China, Economy, Health, Law, Life, News, People, Photo, Rural, Slave labour, Social, teenager | 6 Comments »

China’s Disabled Children Are Sold Into Slavery As Beggars

Posted by Author on July 23, 2007


As Beijing prepares for the Olympics, racketeers live well off their street army of exploited teenagers

John Ray in Beijing, The Observer, Sunday July 22, 2007-

Nature Has not been kind to Gao Zhou Zhou – though not as cruel as other human beings. Her back is bent and bowed; her legs fold uselessly beneath her. She gets around using a homemade skateboard. Her arms, legs and face are very, very dirty. She doesn’t know her age – she looks perhaps 15 – and she cannot remember her real parents. But she knows the pain of life on the streets of Beijing. ‘When I first came here they beat me so hard I nearly died. They beat me and they beat me,’ she says.

It was three years ago when a man she calls ‘uncle’ came to her village. There was a cash transaction with her stepfather, who was promised the equivalent of £150 in instalments. In the land of the rampant capitalist, this was just another business deal.

Since then, most days from early morning to nightfall, she has been hunched over her pitch – a patch of pavement close to Tiananmen Square, amid the crowds of tourists and shoppers. Most don’t offer a second glance. Some pause long enough to place a few notes into the tin she holds out. On a good day she earns 300 yuan (£20). It goes to ‘uncle’.

‘The man who took me here is a very powerful man. Everybody in the village is scared of him. He can chop off anybody’s arm or leg. Whatever he wants. He’s got men all over China. He told me he will find me wherever I go.’

This is not an isolated story. Another girl, born with a curved spine and legs that can carry her only in a spider-like walk, tells us how she was sold into what amounted to a life of slavery in Beijing. Yang Ping says: ‘On the first day I only earned 20 yuan from begging. They beat me up’. She starts to cry: ‘Can we not talk about this?’

Ping is one of six, five of them girls. She wanted to make a living and her family needed the money. Two years ago, she was lured to Beijing with the promise of a job in a toy factory. Her parents were promised £20 a month.

Arriving in the city, she was told the factory had gone bankrupt and she was forced to beg for her keepers. ‘When they played mahjong and lost a few hundred yuan, there would be no food for a start. And then they would show us violence, just like that. They kicked me on the ground and beat me with a belt. They bought nice clothes and had nice cars. I had nothing.’

In a country still in shock from this summer’s unprecedented public soul-searching over the slave labour used in brick factories, the sale of children, often disabled, to work as beggars is yet another scandal the authorities will have to tackle. Next year Beijing will be both Olympic and Paralympic city. What plans are there to clear the streets of the thousands who make a living from them?

The Beijing government refused to say. But charity workers and officials say the authorities have not yet worked out a plan – at least not one they can talk about. Most observers believe the beggars will be cleaned out, one way or the other. And that would be tough on Li Ji Hai and his wife.

A middle-aged couple, they live in a shabby corner of Beijing and live off the earnings of beggars. One is a baby boy who barely stirs during our visit. ‘He’s sick,’ Li tells us. ‘We found him by the roadside in March.’ The other is a teenager – from the same province as Zhou Zhou. They say they bought him for a few hundred yuan. Each day they send him out to beg on their behalf.

Li walks across the room and grabs the boy’s legs. He shakes them around to demonstrate that he is paralysed from the waist down. ‘I know it’s illegal,’ Li admits. ‘But begging has a long history in China. There’s nothing to hide. Everybody has to make a living.’

According to Kate Wedgwood, the outgoing China director of Save the Children, it is part of a much bigger phenomenon. Amid the huge tide of Chinese workers moving from country to city, as many as a million children have become separated from their parents. Perhaps 150,000 are looked after by the state; the rest, presumably, are fending for themselves. ‘A lot of it is about ignorance,’ said Wedgwood. ‘Often the parents don’t know what existence they are selling their children into.”

Zhou Zhou has pinned her hopes on her stepfather. She gives this message to take to him: ‘Please come and get me. My life here is so bitter.’

We track her stepfather down to a village in Henan, an hour’s flight south of Beijing and a world away from China’s economic miracle. This is dirt-poor country.

Gao Jie Liang, standing in his cramped and muddy farmyard, is slightly built and 5ft tall. No way could he stand up to ‘uncle’ – even if he wanted to. He seems to have no regrets, except to believe that he sold Zhou Zhou too cheaply. She was a burden, he says. She wanted to leave, and it is common for the parents of disabled children to offload them in this way.

The last we see of his stepdaughter is close to Tiananmen Square as night falls. Her ‘uncle’ is about to pick her up. Zhou Zhou will hand over the day’s takings, and she’ll be back here tomorrow. There is no other place for her to go.

· John Ray is ITV News China Correspondent. His report will be shown on the ITV Evening News at 6.30pm on Monday.

Original report from The Observer

Posted in Beijing, Child Labour, Children, China, Economy, Health, Law, Life, News, People, Rural, Slave labour, Social, teenager | 1 Comment »

China Slavery Verdict Angers Families- ‘Bigger Fish Off the Hook’

Posted by Author on July 19, 2007


By Ching-Ching Ni, Times Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, CA, US, Jul. 19, 2007-

The kiln owner in the case, the son of a Communist Party official, ‘got off too easy,’ one victim’s father says.

BEIJING — Family and friends reacted with anger Wednesday after the owner of a kiln operated with slaves who were beaten and forced to work long days was sentenced to nine years in prison even as two aides received far harsher punishment.

Kiln owner Wang Bingbing, the son of a local Communist Party official, was convicted Tuesday of unlawful detention for the use of slave laborers at his brick kiln in Shanxi province.

The supervisor of his plant, Zhao Yanbing, received the death penalty after he was convicted of beating a mentally impaired man to death with a shovel because he wasn’t working hard enough. Foreman Heng Tinghan, found guilty of intentionally injuring workers and illegal detention, received a life sentence.

“We are very angry. This sentence is too lenient,” said Zhang Shanlin, father of a young man so badly beaten and burned that he cannot walk without assistance. “The owner got off too easy. Without him, how could they have enslaved so many people?”

The case, which came to light last month after hundreds of fathers seeking missing children believed to have been sold into slavery pleaded for help on the Internet, exposed the widespread use of slaves at kiln operations in central China.

Tuesday’s sentencing came a week after Beijing executed the country’s top food and drug safety official for taking bribes and approving fake medicines sold at home and abroad.

Worried about the latest scandal’s potential to further tarnish the country’s reputation, officials have cracked down on 7,500 small kilns across north-central China and slapped more than a dozen kiln owners and foremen with jail terms.

“The scandal is a blot on socialist China which we must wipe out,” said Shanxi Provincial Court Vice President Liu Jimin.

Chinese media have reported that as many as 1,000 minors had been kidnapped and sold into slavery in rural kilns. Officials say only about a dozen child laborers had been freed in the recent raids, leading some critics to say that the true extent of the scandal is being covered up.

“You can see the major massaging of statistics,” said Robin Munro, research director at China Labor Bulletin, a watchdog group based in Hong Kong.

An additional 95 mostly lower-level officials have been disciplined for dereliction of duty in the brick kiln slavery case, with penalties such as removal from office and expulsion from the Communist Party.

Officials say the size of the dragnet shows an unprecedented commitment to justice, but critics and victims’ families say it lets bigger fish off the hook.

“These guys are scapegoats,” said Zhang Xiaoying, the mother of a 15-year-old boy who had been enslaved and rescued. She is not related to Zhang Shanlin. “They are hired hands. They were just following orders.”

Victims of Wang’s kiln operation said he relied on his father’s clout and bribed police to ignore abuses.

“It’s inconceivable that slave labor and gross physical abuse on the scale it’s been reported could possibly have gone on without full knowledge of local officials,” said Munro. “My guess is too many officials are involved — prosecuting them all would be even worse for the government’s image.”

“This is about local protectionism,” Zhang Shanlin said. “The government should make an example of this by striking down hard.”

original report from  Los Angeles Times

Posted in Asia, Central China, Child Labour, China, Communist Party, corruption, Family, Human Rights, Law, News, People, Politics, Rural, Shanxi, Slave labour, Social, Worker | Comments Off on China Slavery Verdict Angers Families- ‘Bigger Fish Off the Hook’

China: Foreman in Kiln sentenced to death for killing Slave Labor

Posted by Author on July 17, 2007


By Daniel Schearf, VOA News, Beijing, 17 July 2007-

One man has been sentenced to death and at least one other has been given a life sentence in the sensational case of slave labor in northern China.  As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, the case uncovered a huge problem in official neglect of forced and child labor.

The sentences were handed down by the Intermediate People’s Court in China’s Shanxi province.  A foreman named Zhao Yanbing was sentenced to death for killing a worker who was enslaved at the brick kiln where Zhao worked.

Zhao’s supervisor, Heng Tinghan, was convicted of beating and enslaving workers, and sentenced to life in prison.  Wang Bingbing, the owner of the kiln and the son of a local Communist Party village chief, was given nine years for illegally detaining workers.

The court said Heng had used agents to recruit workers at train stations with false promises.  Instead of a decent job with good pay, the workers were forced to work up to 18 hours a day with little food and water.  They slept in unsanitary and crowded rooms and were routinely beaten.

The case received widespread publicity inside and outside China and officials at the highest level condemned the situation.  The political importance attached to the case was indicated when the deputy head of the Shanxi provincial high court, Liu Jimin, announced the verdicts on live state television.

Liu said the situation had harmed social order.

“Only by dealing with this severely and according to law … can we face up to such crimes and safeguard citizens’ lives, health and right to freedom, and protect social stability,” Liu said.

The official China Daily newspaper reported that 26 other overseers at the kiln were given prison sentences, but did not elaborate.

The forced labor scandal gained attention after 400 fathers posted a letter on the Internet saying their children had been kidnapped and sold into forced labor at brick kilns in Shanxi and Henan provinces.  The men said they had sought help from local officials and police, but were ignored.

Since the case came to light, the government has mounted a massive search-and-rescue campaign in the region and freed hundreds from forced labor in brick kilns and coal and iron mines.

Twenty-nine children, some as young as eight, have been found working at the kilns.  Chinese media reports say there may be a thousand or more children still working in slave-like conditions.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency says 95 party officials and civil servants have been punished and 33 officials have been fired for not preventing the forced labor.

– original report from VOA News : China Kiln Worker Sentenced to Death in Slave Labor Case

Posted in Asia, Central China, Child Labour, China, corruption, Economy, employment, Law, News, People, Politics, Rural, Slave labour, Social, sweatshop, Worker, World | Comments Off on China: Foreman in Kiln sentenced to death for killing Slave Labor

“Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves!” – China National Anthem Says

Posted by Author on June 23, 2007


(excerpt) By Chris Buckley, Reuters, Fri Jun 22, 2007-

BEIJING (Reuters) – “Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves!” go the stirring words that open China’s national anthem.

But shocking images of men and children padlocked and brutalized in stifling brickworks have shown that even in this officially socialist nation, where workers are supposed to rule, slavery has secured a niche in the galloping market economy.

If, nearly six decades after the communist revolution, China can sustain even small-scale slavery, what of other parts of Asia where forced labor has deep roots that have long defied rights campaigns?

Observers of workers trapped in forced labor say economic growth does not necessarily spell the end of slavery, and small brick-makers across Asia often exploit trapped labour.

“The number-one predictor is corruption,” said Kevin Bales, an expert on the problem who is president of Free the Slaves, a Washington D.C.-based group.

“You can certainly see economic growth and slavery going hand in hand when that primary criterion of corruption is there.”

In north China’s Shanxi province, the centre of the national scandal, witnesses said paying off officials was normal in this region dotted with small coal mines and belching factories.

– excerpt from Reuters report: Across Asia, corruption and slavery form bitter web

Related:
Slavery and Organ Harvesting: Are you imaginative enough? – Jun 20, 2007

Posted in Asia, Child Labour, China, corruption, Economy, Human Rights, Law, Life, News, People, Report, Rural, Slave labour, Social | 1 Comment »

China Slavery and Organ Harvesting: Are you imaginative enough?

Posted by Author on June 23, 2007


By Jennifer Zeng, The Epoch Times, Jun 20, 2007- slave labor

After reading the shocking news of Shanxi Province’s underground brick factory —which uncovered children and the handicapped sold into slavery to work 16 to 20 hours a day—I couldn’t help but think of the organ harvesting program targeting living Falun Gong practitioners.

How was the factory uncovered? Who thought of this scheme? And who would dare believe it? Consider the ideas put forth in the article “China No Longer Needs Novels,” by Chinese writer Yang Hengjun. Yang said that, when compared to the tumultuous atmosphere of China’s current social climate, many criticize his novels as being unimaginative or boring. The comment stopped Yang from writing novels all together. The reality of the underground brick factory appears to be more horrific than any story one could imagine. “I have written novels for so many years, so why do I lack such imagination?” asked Yang. “Why could I not imagine such shockingly ruthless plots that would make even ghosts cry?”

One need only observe those who live in, or who have come out of, the “New China.” These people have been raised on thoughts of a flowering nation, a prosperous time, a grand nation rising, or a society of harmony? How can such people imagine or believe news of child slavery or an organ harvesting program ? They can only become angry when this truth is revealed. As renowned human rights attorney, Gao Zhisheng, once said, “There is only what they [the Chinese communist regime] can’t think of, there is nothing they can’t do.”

Although the Chinese communist regime wishes to paint a different picture, the “New China” is very much defined by stories like the brick factory operation and the organ harvesting program. Aside being heinous crimes, what traits do these incidents share?

Shocking and Audacious

Both involve underground systems existing outside the realm of normal society. Theorgan harvesting, re-enact slaves in the factory were jailed in brick caves; while Falun Gong practitioners are also jailed underground or in other places unknown to the public. The factory kept human beings for free labor, whereas the organ harvesting program keeps Falun Gong practitioners as a living organ reserve. In both cases the imprisoned were denied the dignity and personal freedom that is the right of every individual. Instead their bodies became the property of others.

(photo: re-enacted scene of organ harvesting in China. – by Xiaoyan Sun, The Epoch Times)

Victims

Brick factory victims included farmer workers, children, and mentally retarded people—society’s neglected, weak and forgotten. Organ harvesting victims on the other hand are made up of Falun Gong practitioners —the No. 1 enemies to be eliminated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Far from forgotten, the CCP instead focuses much of their attention on this group as they attempt to eliminate them from the society. In terms of their societal standing, Falun Gong adherents suffer an even harsher fate than weak social groups.

Driven by Profit

Both the brick factory and the organ harvesting program are driven by profit. Many argue that in a corrupt environment such as China, which has bred a society bent solely on pursuing wealth, inhumane moneymaking schemes are bound to surface. The underground brick factory combined a tireless labor force—slaves were made to work 16 -20 hours per day—and little overhead—workers, receiving only cold water and a bun for sustenance, were tossed aside when they later died from exhaustion—resulting in a business model of almost pure profit.

What about the profit from organ harvesting? China’s organ transplant website clearly labels the price for its wares: one liver costs between $98,000 to $130,000; while one kidney is sold at $62,000; $130,000 to $150,000 for a heart and $30,000 for a cornea. In comparison, when selling the organs from a single body, the profit is far greater than what value a slave can create in an underground factory.

Criminals by Any Name

The criminals that ran the underground brick factory consist of human traffickers, labor contractors, participating local police officers and other local officials. When the case broke, Li Fulin, deputy-director general of Shanxi Provincial Public Security Bureau, claimed that the underground brick factory represents a dark corner of society that would be cracked down on firmly. High-ranking officials have played a “positive” role and some of these slaves were rescued.

What about the criminals that conduct the organ harvesting program? They include medical doctors, committing crimes in labor camps, detention centers, prisons, and hospitals, and the military. Who is the highest-ranking criminal in this case? This still hasn’t been determined, though some suggest that it remains a top secret within the Chinese communist regime. However, we do know that the suppression of Falun Gong comes from the very top of the Chinese regime. The highest-ranking officials of the CCP orchestrate this persecution, so who can we rely on to rescue these victims?

Family Members of the Missing

Some of the child slaves in Shanxi’s underground brick factories were rescued because their parents worked tirelessly for their release—a natural impulse when a loved one is in danger. Yet for this very reason, after the heinous crimes of the organ harvesting program were exposed, many people refused to believe that such an evil act could occur. They concluded: if so many people were missing, why didn’t their family members look for them?

In fact, it is not that their families hadn’t looked for them. Like all information concerning the Falun Gong persecution, the regime thwarted any attempts to dig deeper into the matter.

It is a situation with which I am intimately familiar. In 2000, I was arrested for practicing Falun Gong. My husband was informed of my arrest and imprisonment, but wasn’t told in which labor camp I was kept. He spent four months struggling to locate me, but his efforts were in vain; everyone he approached refused to give him any information. Even if he intended to stake it all in his fight to find me, there was no one to fight with. Governmental agencies and law enforcement agents firmly believe that part of their job is to convince these desperately searching individuals that they are in fact to blame for the disappearance of their family members because they failed to convince them to give up Falun Gong.

In a country run by state terrorism, Falun Gong practitioners are demonized and labeled as dissidents. Their families strongly oppose their cultivation and even threaten divorce or ostracize them because of what they’ve been told about Falun Gong. Many practitioners, who traveled to Beijing to make an appeal for Falun Gong, vanish mysteriously. Some of their family members dare not search for them, fearing that they might face the same fate. They often have nowhere to turn, being unable to even share their pain at the loss of a loved one. In extreme cases, family members are even forced to cooperate with local authorities in this crackdown. They aid in imprisoning elderly Falun Gong practitioners who often die in detention at last.

Scale and Level of Crimes

When comparing the scale and level of these crimes, consider that the brick factories are largely unorganized operations of independent gangs, while the organ harvesting program is a meticulous operation backed by a state-run crackdown. Because organ harvesting runs all the way to the top, it enjoys the assistance of high-ranking officials, the resources of a major part of the state apparatus, many highly skilled individuals, and the ability to quickly cover up information and destroy evidence. These tools were not available to the criminals running the underground brick factories.

As a result, the world is shocked and appalled at the brick factories, but refuses to believe in the organ harvesting program. Particularly in China, the facts of this crime have been completely concealed within the country, thus remaining unknown to the public.

What these two incidents have in common are that its victims are seen as less than human by the society at large—they are viewed merely as free labor or an organ supply. Through violence, these “sub-humans” become the possessions of enterprising criminals. With such a mentality, if underground brick factories can occur, there should be nothing incredible or shocking about an organ harvesting program.

The public remains unwilling to believe in allegations of an organ harvesting program—such an atrocity indeed boggles the mind and many are simply not mentally prepared to envision such a cold-blooded reality. Yet once these allegations are seriously considered and the evidence weighed, individuals will be tortured by their conscience and forced to question their own morality and sense of justice.

– original article from the Epochtimes : Comparing Slavery and Organ Harvesting

Posted in Asia, Child Labour, Children, China, Commentary, Communist Party, Crime against humanity, Economy, Falun Gong, Family, Genocide, Human Rights, Law, News, Opinion, People, Politics, Religious, Rural, Slave labour, Social, Worker, World | Comments Off on China Slavery and Organ Harvesting: Are you imaginative enough?

Fast-Growing China Says Little of Child Slavery’s Role

Posted by Author on June 21, 2007


By HOWARD W. FRENCH, New York Times, June 21, 2007-

SHANGHAI, June 20 — There is a certain ritualistic aspect to stories in China like the one this past week about the hundreds of people, many of them teenagers or even younger, who were forced to work under slavelike conditions in the brick kilns of Shanxi Province. First, Chinese readers are horrified by a picture of their country that many say they hardly recognize, then a villain is rounded up, and finally, after a torrent of unusually blunt and emotionally charged news reports and editorials, the matter drops from view, ensuring that the larger issue goes unresolved.

The villain in the case was Heng Tinghan, the manager of the brick works, who was arrested Saturday and promptly cemented his bad-guy image by protesting that it was a “fairly small thing” to beat and abuse underage workers, and to deprive them of pay. With his arrest, and the urging of the Central Office of External Communication of the Communist Party, the story then died away. But Chinese newspapers are constantly peppered with accounts of the death and injury of child laborers, and of disputes that arise because of unusually low wages, or the withholding of pay, with no region of the country exempted.

Just within a week or so of the brick kiln story, there were several reports of labor abuses against children. A 14-year-old boy was killed in an explosion while filling a tank with napthalene at a chemical factory near Nanjing. A 15-year-old boy was dragged into a cotton gin and crushed to death in Nanchang after working a succession of 20-hour days. And 70 girls from rural Henan Province were brought by their teacher to work at a grape processing plant in Ningbo, where their hands bled from working 16-hour shifts.

From the densely packed factory zones of Guangdong Province to the street markets, kitchens and brothels of major cities, to the primitive factories of China’s relatively poor western provinces, child labor is a daily fact of life, experts here say, and one that the government, preoccupied with economic growth, has traditionally turned a blind eye to.

“In order to achieve modernization, people will go to any ends to earn money, to advance their interests, leaving behind morality, humanity and even a little bit of compassion, let alone the law or regulations, which are poorly implemented,” said Hu Jindou, a professor of economics at the University of Technology in Beijing. “Everything is about the economy now, just like everything was about politics in the Mao era, and forced labor or child labor is far from an isolated phenomenon. It is rooted deeply in today’s reality, a combination of capitalism, socialism, feudalism and slavery.” (…… more details from New York Times’ website)

Posted in Child Labour, Children, China, Economy, Human Rights, Law, Life, News, People, Rural, Slave labour, Social | 2 Comments »

China Child Slavery Not Limited to Brickyards

Posted by Author on June 20, 2007


by Karen Meirik, Radio Netherlands, Netherlands, 20-06-2007-

China was shocked by the recently televised images of weakened children and adults that were forced to work as slaves in Shanxi province brick yards. But this particular scandal, which even made it to state-run media, may just be the tip of the iceberg. All over China, children and young men are missing.

Last week, the police freed 568 people that worked as slaves in Henan en Shanxi provinces. Some of the liberated slaves are suffering from mental illness. 168 people were arrested in the case.

But this local success story does not solve China’s slavery problem. China’s increasing demand for building materials and fuel is causing a need for cheap labour in brick yards and often illegally operated coalmines. Previous investigations show that males around the age of fifteen are considered to be the most suitable to be forced into slavery. They are physically strong but can still easily be intimidated.

But it’s not only the brickyards and coalmines that make use of young slaves. Male babies are sold to childless couples. And it’s not males only either that are victimized. Young girls also are sold as domestic slaves, prostitutes or child brides.

Shelter
Margaret Ward is a nurse with the ‘Xinxing Aid for Homeless Children in Baoji’. Many children that have escaped slave traders end up in this shelter in Central China.

“Recently we had an eleven year old boy who escaped from a brick yard. But many children are also forced to work in restaurant kitchens.”

According to Ms Ward the slave traders are specifically looking for children from rural areas.

“Their parents often work in the city, and the children are raised by family. Often they are neglected, they are fed only once a day and they watch a lot of television. They have a naïve perception of life in the big city and they are easily conned by slave traders.”Violence
The traders often find their victims at bus and train stations, but Ms Ward says that some kids are violently abducted. The price for a child slave is around 500 yuan (50 euro). One boy from Xinjiang in the Northwest of the country only remembers being hit over the head as a smelly cloth was pushed against his nose. He came to in a moving train somewhere in central China.

According to Ms Ward the children are forced to obey their owners.
“Sometimes boiling water is poured over their legs or they are being tied up. Also they are threatened that their families may get hurt. Since many of the children don’t have any id cards they’re afraid to go to the police.”

Publicity
An article published in China Business News purportedly confirms the suspicion that the police are bribed by slave traders. Chinese Internet forums are calling for punishment of the involved officials.

But Beijing is also trying to sooth the unrest. Last week the ‘Internet Bureau’ called on Chinese news websites to remove ‘harmful information aimed at attacking the party.

original report from Radio Netherlands

Posted in Child Labour, Children, China, Economy, Health, Law, News, People, Rural, Slave labour | 1 Comment »

CHINA: Child Labour Scandal Exposes Gross Corruption

Posted by Author on June 18, 2007


By Antoaneta Bezlova, Inter Press Service (IPS), Italy, Jun 18, 2007-

BEIJING, Jun 18 (IPS) – An unfolding national scandal on the large-scale abuse of child labourers in the brick kiln industry raises questions on the adequacy of planned labour laws that are supposed to take on sweatshops and protect workers’ rights.

The first signs of the scandal surfaced early June when local newspapers carried a staggering photograph of a group of migrant workers freed after more than a year of slave labour in a brick kiln in central China.

By the standards of the Chinese state-sanctioned press, which frowns on sensationalism, the photograph was more than shocking — it showed people who were bruised, wounded and burnt, with clear signs of malnutrition and dazed expressions of disbelief at their sudden freedom.

Yet, the story accompanying the photograph was even more astounding in a country where the ruling Communist Party was swept to power for its pledges to create a workers’ paradise.

The 32 migrants had been duped into believing that they were being offered paid jobs, but once inside the brickworks in the Caosheng village of Shanxi province they were forced to work under the watch of guards and dogs for 18 hours a day. None received any money for the whole time of their enslavement and they survived only on water and steamed rolls of bread.

When a police raid freed the migrants late last month it was discovered that one man had been beaten to death with a hammer. Among the others, eight were so traumatised that they could only remember their names. All had burns on their hands and bodies from having to carry the hot bricks without protection. Their clothes had been reduced to rags and “the grime on their bodies was so thick it could be scraped off with a knife,” said the report in the Shanxi Evening News.

The brick kiln was operated by a foreman identified as Heng Tinghan, but owned by the son of the local Communist Party chief. According to local villagers, the brickworks were illegal but still allowed to operate with the tacit agreement of the local police and officials because the party boss’s son owned them.

The extraordinary revelations were followed by an open letter circulated on Chinese Internet fora, alleging that at least 1,000 children aged between eight and 16 years have been enslaved in the illegal brick kilns in Shanxi province.

The letter, signed by 400 fathers from the central province of Henan, pleaded for help in their self-organised campaign to rescue the kidnapped children. It said the children had been kidnapped or forced into cars in urban Henan centres such as the capital Zhengzhou, then sold to factory bosses for about 500 yuan (65 US dollars) each.

Henan borders Shanxi province whose rugged terrain was once used by Mao Zedong’s military strategists to hide thousands of factories churning out arms and ammunition in the late 1960s. Many of these caves now house illegal brick kilns, according to Henan fathers, where kidnapped children and migrants worked in horrific conditions.

“The places those children lived in were worse than dog kennels,” Chai Wei, a Henan father who had managed to enter several dozen brickworks in search for his missing son, told the ‘Xinjingbao’ newspaper. “There were no beds — they slept on wooden planks, and the walls were covered in excrement. We were scared stiff by what we saw.”

Chai had spearheaded the rescue efforts of nearly one hundred parents who pooled money to hire a car and go around the brickworks in Shanxi. Their search had managed to salvage around 100 children, Chai said, but there were hundreds more. His 17-year-old son, who disappeared from Zhengzhou in April, has not been found yet.

“We got no help whatsoever from the local police,” Chai complained bitterly. “Many of the local police are close to the kilns’ owners and would warn them ahead if a search party was coming. We learned not to rely on them (the police) but to tour the kilns one by one ourselves.”

The discovery of provincial webs of slave labour was made public just as China is preparing to adopt a new labour law which has been deliberated by legislators for many months. The new law aims to crack down on sweatshops and workers’ abuses by giving state-controlled unions real power for the first time since Beijing introduced market reforms in the 1980s.

Over the last ten years China’s economy has been growing at double-digit rate thanks to the labour of millions of migrant workers churning out goods for export in exchange for low wages. But, as the economy boomed labour disputes multiplied. More and more workers have gone to court or taken to the streets to protest poor working conditions and overdue pay.

The government has described the new legislation as a fresh attempt to improve worker protection and stop labour abuses. But it is not clear how effective it would be in this vast country where many local officials tend to ignore or skirt directives from the central government.

Workers’ advocates argue that enforcement powers would be improved only if Beijing allows independent labour unions.

“With no supervision or advocacy from the collective power of labour, laws and central government resolutions will not be respected or administered,” says Cai Chongguo, labour rights expert with the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin.

After all, China already has a labour law and a law on protection of minors, but neither could prevent the forced labour scandal in Shanxi, noted a signed commentary by the Xinhua News Agency on Sunday.

“The reason why such flagrant crimes were committed in the brick kilns of Shanxi is that businessmen and local officials worked hand-in-glove,” the commentary said.

The ‘China Youth Daily’ went even further, calling the uncovered slavery a “shocking disgrace”, exposing officials’ dereliction of duty. “When a law is massively undercut in its implementation so that it becomes a worthless piece of paper, then it’s necessary to rethink the law itself,” the paper said. (END/2007)

original article from IPS

Posted in Asia, Central China, Child Labour, Children, China, corruption, Economy, employment, Human Rights, Law, News, People, Report, Rural, Shanxi, Slave labour, Social, sweatshop, Worker | Comments Off on CHINA: Child Labour Scandal Exposes Gross Corruption

Modern Slavery in China: Status of Chinese Worker

Posted by Author on June 17, 2007


Jonathan Watts in Beijing, The Guardian, UK, Saturday June 16, 2007 –

Beijing (The Guardian)- More than 450 slave workers – many of them maimed, burned and mentally scarred – have been rescued from Chinese brick factories in an investigation into illegal labour camps, it emerged yesterday.

The victims, including children as young as 14, were reportedly abducted or tricked into labouring at the kilns, where they toiled for 16 to 20 hours a day for no pay and barely enough food to live.

According to the state media, they were beaten by guards and kept from escaping by dogs. At least 13 died from overwork and abuse, including a labourer who was allegedly battered to death with a shovel.

Such cruelty appears to have been commonplace and, until this week, ignored by local governments intent on boosting economic growth at any cost.

Their plight was revealed by one of the biggest known police operations in the country’s history.

In the past week 35,000 police have inspected 7,500 kilns in the countryside of Shanxi and Henan provinces, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. They have arrested 120 suspects and freed 468 slaves, including 109 juveniles.

The results of this probe into the darkest corners of Chinese society have shocked the nation. Since the first case was revealed on June 8, newspapers and television broadcasts have been filled with images of the wounded, emaciated and traumatised slaves. Some were so badly hurt they had to be carried out on stretchers.

Their living conditions were appalling. According to local media they were locked for years in a bare room with no bed or stove, allowed out only to work in the red-hot kilns, from where they would carry heavy, burning loads of newly fired bricks on their bare backs. Many were badly scalded. Fifteen-minute meal-breaks consisted only of steamed buns and cold water.

One of the labourers, 17-year-old Zang Wenlong, told a TV station that the kiln where he worked for three months in Caosheng village in Shanxi was a “prison”. He said he had been abducted from a train station.

The huge police investigation was prompted by 400 parents of missing youths, who posted a petition on the internet last week, accusing local officials of ignoring their suspicions.

Yang Aizhi told Xinhua that she went looking for her 16-year-old son in March after hearing that he might have been forced to work at a brick factory.

In visits to dozens of kilns in Shanxi – a province famous for its coal and heavy industry – she found children still in school uniform who were pressed into hard labour.

President Hu Jintao and prime minister Wen Jiabao ordered an investigation, compensation for victims and severe punishment for traffickers and jailers. The leaders rose to power on a promise to improve the conditions of those left behind by the country’s breakneck development.

But many commentators believe high-profile investigations only scratch the surface of child labour, trafficking and slavery. With no free media, independent courts or rival political parties, it is easy for local officials to conspire with factory owners to ignore labour laws. “If China really gave the media freedom, you would see stories like this appearing all the time,” said Qiao Mu, of Beijing Foreign Study University.

Internet chatrooms were buzzing with criticism of the local authorities. “My feeling is that local officials and police benefit from the brick industry and that’s why these appalling things could happen,” said one post. “The boss and local gangsters are not the only criminals. The courts should also sentence local officials who were bribed off,” said another.

– original report from The Guardian: Enslaved, burned and beaten: police free 450 from Chinese brick factories

Related:
–  400 Chinese Fathers of Child Slaves Seek Help Online, Wed Jun 13, 2007

Posted in Child Labour, Children, China, corruption, Economy, employment, Health, Human Rights, Law, Life, News, People, Rural, Slave labour, Social, Worker | 7 Comments »

400 Chinese Fathers of Child Slaves Seek Help Online

Posted by Author on June 14, 2007


Reuters, Wed Jun 13, 2007-

BEIJING (Reuters) – About 400 Chinese men whose children were sold to work as slaves at brickworks were seeking help online after risking their lives and spending all their savings in a mostly futile search, media reported on Wednesday.

At least 1,000 children, with the youngest 8, were kidnapped near train or bus stations in the central province of Henan and had been sold to work in northwestern Shanxi, the official People’s Daily said on its Web site (www.people.com.cn).

The fathers from Henan, who “spent all the money they had and risked their lives to go deep into the mountains looking for their children,” had already rescued about 40, the report said.

“We were shocked by what we saw,” it quoted the fathers as saying in a petition letter.

“Some children had been isolated from the outside world for seven years, and some were beaten and maimed because they tried to escape, and the backs of some were burnt by supervisors with burning red bricks,” the letter was quoted as saying.

“They worked 14 hours a day, but had little to eat … Being beaten up was common,” it said, adding that some children were buried alive when their injuries got worse.

To save the children guarded by “thugs” and supervisors was not easy and local police “not only did not help, but even prevented” them from freeing the children, the fathers were quoted as saying.

Since the online campaign was launched, police from Henan had urged their counterparts in Shanxi to help with the rescue.

Last week, state media reported the rescue of 31 people, forced to work for a year as slaves at a brickworks run by the son of a local Communist Party official in the same province.

Among them, eight were so traumatized by the experience that they were only able to remember their names, and one laborer was beaten to death with a hammer for not working hard enough.

original report from Reuters

Posted in Central China, Child Labour, Children, China, Economy, Family, Henan, Human Rights, Internet, Law, News, People, Rural, Social, Worker | 1 Comment »

12-year-old Child Labour Exploited in China Olympics Goods Factories

Posted by Author on June 11, 2007


Press release, Trades Union Congress (TUC), 10 June 2007-

New research published today (Monday) shows that licensed goods bearing the logo of the 2008 Beijing Games have been made in factories where child labour and gross exploitation are rife.

As members of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) gather in London for a progress report on the 2012 Games, the report – ‘No Medal for the Olympics‘ finds evidence of children as young as 12 years old producing Olympic merchandise. Researchers also found adults earning 14p per hour (half the legal minimum wage in China) and employees who were made to work up to 15 hours per day, seven days a week.

The research undertaken inside China by the Playfair Alliance – represented in the UK by the TUC and Labour Behind the Label (LBL) – into working conditions in four factories making 2008 Olympic bags, headgear, stationery and other products also reveals that factory owners are falsifying employment records, and forcing workers to lie about their wages and conditions.

With 1872 days to go until the London Olympics, campaigners at a meeting in Parliament later today will call on the organisers of the 2012 Games to act now to make sure that their own licensed goods are not made with similar violations of workers’ rights. The Playfair Alliance has expressed concern that workers’ rights could be jeopardised by the pressure to keep the overall cost of the London Games down.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Children and adult workers are being grossly exploited so that unscrupulous employers can make more profit. Their actions tarnish the Olympic ideal, and we don’t want more of the same when the Olympics come to London. The IOC must add respect for workers’ rights to the Olympic charter.’

Maggie Burns, Chair of Labour Behind the Label, said: “The London Olympics has just spent £400,000 on a logo. There is no reason why organisers cannot ensure a ‘sweat-free’ games, if they act now. Previous games have tried and failed to safeguard workers’ rights. If London is to raise the bar, it will need to be creative and ambitious, but it will also need to put enough resources in place.”

Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said:

“We warned the IOC at the time that failure to take the necessary action on labour standards would lead to situations such as those identified in the report, bringing lasting damage to the name and reputation of the Olympic movement. Unfortunately, our call has been ignored. This must not happen again.”

Researchers for the Playfair Alliance came across many examples of worker abuse in Chinese factories producing goods for the IOC and the Beijing Games including:

  • The Le Kit Stationery Co Ltd in Guangdong, which is producing stationery for the 2008 Olympics, was employing more than 20 children, the youngest just 12 years old. These youngsters had been hired during the school holidays and were working from around 7.30am until 10.30pm, doing the same jobs as adults. Forced overtime, harsh fines, the punishment of workers, and wages less than half the legal minimum were amongst the violations uncovered in the factory, which does not give its 400 employees any contract of employment.
  • The Yue Wong Cheong company’s operations in Shenzen is producing some 50 different items under licence for the 2008 Olympics. It regularly pays its workers less than 50% of the Chinese minimum wage, and requires them to work 13 hours per day with few, if any, days off a month. Many workers complained about poor health and safety, including fire hazards, skin problems from chemicals and respiratory problems from dust. Fake salary slips are used to dupe outside inspectors sent by the company’s clients to check wages and conditions.
  • Mainland Headwear Holdings Ltd employs some 3,000 workers at its Shenzen factory, paying them as little as 45% of the minimum wage and forcing them to work overtime far in excess of the legal limit. Workers who resign are “fined” one month’s wages by the company, while the whole workforce is given instructions on how to lie to outside inspectors about wages and conditions. Any worker who tells the truth faces instant dismissal, while those who follow the factory’s “answer guidelines” are given a financial reward.
  • Eagle Leather Products is a Hong Kong owned company based in Guangdong with a workforce of around 200. Most workers producing the company’s Olympics-branded bags are made to work 30 days per month, with forced overtime meaning that total working hours a month can be in excess of 300 hours. While workers say that wage levels are satisfactory, excessive fines, punishments and arbitrary rules make life extremely difficult.

The Playfair Alliance is calling on the IOC to:

  • Demand that countries hosting the Olympics make sure that goods produced under licence meet core labour standards, and where this is not the case, the IOC must act to put the situation right.
  • Ensure that respect for workers’ rights is a key part of the Olympic Charter and of the IOC Code of Ethics.
  • Commit resources to undertake investigations of working conditions and acts to end abusive and exploitative labour practices in IOC supply chains.

NOTES:
– The full report can be found at http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/playfair.pdf

Original report from TUC : Olympics merchandise made using child labour, says TUC

Posted in Asia, Beijing Olympics, Child Labour, Children, China, Company, Economy, employment, Guangdong, Human Rights, Law, Life, Made in China, News, People, products, Report, SE China, Shenzhen, Social, Sports, Worker, World | Comments Off on 12-year-old Child Labour Exploited in China Olympics Goods Factories