China: Addicted to slavery
Chinese anti-slavery raid underscores appetite for cheap labor.
Swift action by Chinese police has rescued 30 people forced to work as slaves at a brick kiln in central China. Officials say the victims were mentally handicapped.
This file photo from 2007 shows men reportedly working as slaves in a Chinese brick kiln. Despite rescues, the problem is widespread. (NEWS CONSORTIUM, 2007)
The enslaved victims were both tricked into working or abducted and sold to the factory for as little as 300 to 500 yuan, which is $47 to $78 USD. Their disabilities were often so severe they could not complain or seek help for themselves. Workers were regularly subjected to beatings and were deprived of food. State media reports many of the victims were near starvation.
Some of the victims had worked for as much as seven years without pay.
Due to their disability, most of the rescued slaves cannot say where they are from and cannot be returned home at this time. They are presently being sheltered by local government authorities.
China has a long history of human rights violations, and while many are aware of the forced labor camps run by the government, most notoriously for political prisoners, few realize that China has a significant problem with human trafficking.
There are no official numbers on how many people are enslaved in China, but estimates range well into the hundreds of thousands. Many people are Chinese citizens, sometimes mentally disabled, who are tricked with fake contracts into working as slaves. Once employed, they are forced to work without pay and held against their will.
Brick kilns and other facilities that produce cheap construction materials are common places to find slaves, according to authorities. The booming Chinese economy is partly to blame. As entire cities are built to house the rapidly growing population and to improve the quality of life for most people, the demand for cheap construction materials has skyrocketed. The tremendous demand means certain profits for anyone who can establish a production facility and run it cheaply. That often requires slaves to form part, or all of the workforce. Those slaves are usually mentally handicapped people, since they are the least capable of looking after their own interests, and importantly, communicating with authorities.
Chinese media routinely carries heart wrenching stories of parents frantically searching for their abducted and enslaved children. And while the government acts swiftly on leads, finding those leads, and the victims themselves, remains difficult.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: China, slavery, slaves, Henan, mentally disabled, labor
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