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In China, The Hidden Slavery Of The Mentally Disabled

A case just broadcast on local television reveals horrid conditions of 30 mentally disabled forced to work at a brick kiln. But it is hardly the first such story in China in recent years.

Worldcrunch NEWSBITES

BEIJING - A Henan television report has revealed a shocking case of slave labor of mentally disabled people near the towns of Zhengzhou and Zumadian in Henan Province, China.

The police, led by the TV network crew, raided and rescued some 30 mentally handicapped workers from a local brick kiln. The owner of the kiln was arrested along with seven foremen.

The victims were found in abject conditions, cramped in a small, noxious-smelling room. According to another report of Nanfang Daily, these workers have been forced – sometimes with beatings and threats -- to do hard labor every day of brick production in high temperatures, while being deprived of both food and sleep.

Authorities say they had been either sold into slavery by human traffickers, with the price estimated of some 300-500 RMB (30-50 euro), or kidnapped, or fooled. The victims mainly came from poor rural areas of Henan Province, very often near a train station.

Apart from working hours, the rest of time, including meal breaks, they were all locked up in a congested room.

A similar case was discovered in Sichuan just last year, where the suspect, Zeng Lingquan, his wife and brother-in-law were alleged to have taken numerous disabled people home and trained them before contracting them as off-site workers to other work sites in China.

This slavery exploitation chain is known to cover many provinces including Sichuan, Xinjiang, Hunan, and Guangdong. There were as many as 137 disabled victims, over a period of 17 years. Back in 2007, there was another shocking case in Shanxi Province, again in a brick kiln.

One source revealed that rural laborers, intellectually disabled or not, being sold into slavery is not a new practice. It has been common in Henan Province, and in particular in Xichuan County, for the past 20 years.

Read the original story in full in Chinese by Ni Bidong

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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