China

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.

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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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