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Shanxi brick factories

Forced & child labour in Shanxi brickworks

Articles relating to the discovery of Shanxi brickworks holding workers in slave-like conditions, including children.

1. 'Slaves' rescued from China firm, Michael Bristow, BBC, 8 Jun 2007

2. 400 hundred children sold as ‘slaves’ to illegal brick works factories in Shanxi, China, Dahe.cn 06 Jun 2007

[Original article in Chinese. Title translation, and following summary of the article's key points, provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]

Dahe.com published an open petition letter on June 6 from a group of 400 parents, striving to retrieve their lost sons, who had been captured as forced labourers in many notorious brick works factories in Shanxi, China. The children were lured or kidnapped at public locations in Zhengzhou, Henan Province such as train stations, bus stops and on the road side. They were each sold for around 500 yuan (about US$62) to work in the Shanxi brick factories, known as “dark factories”. When the parents visited the illegal brick factories in Linfen and Yongji cities of Shanxi, where most of the "dark factories" are located, they were stunned by what they found. The youngest of these children is aged 8. The children’s hair has not been cut for months or maybe years. Some have been held for over 7 years. Some has become disabled because of brutal beatings when caught trying to escape. Many have had their backs seriously burnt when they were forced to carry red-hot bricks on their backs. Slow or sick workers are beaten in order to ‘catch up with productivity’. Sick and injured workers are not hospitalized or even given any treatment.  All workers are held under round-the-clock surveillance by supervisors and guards.

In the past two months, these parents have been able to save more than 40 children from those factories.  However, still hundreds are in the hands of the "dark factories". The parents sought help from village, county and city officials from police and labour departments, only to find indifference and red tape.  Many Shanxi officials said since the children were missing in Henan and thus they should be dealt with in Henan.  In one case of an assault that lead to a permanent disability, the official released the perpetrator due to lack of evidence. That led many to suspect collusion between officials and the owners.

3. Article & photographs: China: A thousand children sold to ‘dark kilns’ in Shanxi, Wu Yong, Dahe.cn 13 Jun 2007

[Original article in Chinese. Title translation, and following summary of the article's key points, provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]

The petition letter written by 400 parents of the children sold as captive workers to the "dark kilns" in Shanxi had raised grave concerns all over China, especially on internet forums. After the letter being published for 5 days on the internet, it has received more than half a million hits. Many posts in forums expressed anger and shock. Many referred the poor children as modern-day "baoshengong", meaning indentured labourers, and termed the "dark kilns" in Shanxi as the ‘Garden of Masters in Slavery’.

As a result, Zhengzhou police on June 9 started a one-month campaign against abduction and forced labour and set up an information system for all missing / abducted persons in the municipality.  On the same day, Henan police also conducted an operation on "Abduction and forced labour". The authorities have said they will impose heavy punishment on unlawful detention, purposeful torture, forced labour and child labour. Henan police reported the incidents to the Public Security Bureau in order to foster collaboration from their Shanxi counterpart.

Henan TV journalist Fu Zhengzhong went to visit Shanxi three times, and witnessed the parents saving 40 of the children. Fu admitted that the main obstacle was the non-collaboration of law enforcement departments, and even illegal acts by a minority of them. He quoted the example of Zhu Guang-hui. As Zhu was released from a Yongji brick works factory, the Shanxi Labour Monitor Department in turn sold Zhu to another brick works factory. A Labour Monitor official by the name of Feng even took the 300 yuan wage released to Zhu. Fu believes the number of child labour working in Shanxi ‘dark kilns’ is close to 1000.