Manhunt captures suspected slave boss in China

Manhunt captures suspected slave boss in ChinaReuters
Sunday, June 17, 2007

BEIJING: Chinese police have captured a man accused of holding workers in virtual slavery, state media reported Sunday amid a national uproar over teenagers and men forced to work in brutal, furnacelike brick kilns.

Heng Tinghan is accused of holding workers in a kiln in Hongtong County in the northern province of Shanxi. One worker died and the police rescued 31 others, thin and scarred.

The police caught Heng late Saturday after a nationwide manhunt, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Heng, 42, has become a central villain in a national drama over possibly hundreds of teenage and adult “slaves” forced or tricked into grueling labor in kilns, mines and foundries across Shanxi and neighboring Henan provinces.

When caught in the central province of Hubei, Heng apologized for mistreating workers but denied blame for the death of the mentally impaired man, a Hubei newspaper reported.

“I felt it was a fairly small thing,” Heng said, “just hitting and swearing at the workers and not giving them wages.” The Shiyan Evening News also quoted him as saying, “The dead man had nothing to do with me.”

The scandal has tarnished the ruling Communist Party’s promises to build a “harmonious” society with improved rights and income for the nation’s hundreds of millions of poor farmers.

The China Youth Daily, an official newspaper, called the coercion a “shocking disgrace” exposing officials’ failure to enforce labor laws.

“When a law is massively undercut in its implementation so that it becomes a worthless piece of paper, then it is necessary to rethink the law itself,” the newspaper said.

State television has reported that owners of the primitive brick-making operations ran them like prisons, using guard dogs and beatings to deter escapes.

A sweeping police crackdown in Shanxi and Henan has so far freed 568 people from kilns and other work sites, including 22 under the age of 18 in Shanxi, Xinhua reported. Wang Bingbing, the owner of the kiln that Heng leased, was detained in late May.

Local news reports said that Heng had coerced or lured workers to the site since March 2006, forcing them to work 16-hour days and subsist mainly on steamed bread.

President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China have issued “instructions” on the scandal, state media reported.

This is not the first time brutality in Shanxi’s brick industry has stirred their concern. In 2003, Wen called for tough punishment after a teenage boy was forced into working in a kiln in Yongji, Shanxi, media reported at the time.

By Saturday, the police in Shanxi had detained 25 people suspected of involvement in what amounts to a slave trade, Xinhua said.

But a Henan reporter who had helped expose the business accused officials of keeping parents from finding missing children.

“In our reporting, the biggest obstacle has been lack of cooperation from some authorities in Shanxi,” Fu Zhenzhong, a television reporter, told The China Youth Daily. “Some are still coming up with any number of ways to keep parents from rescuing their children.”

Its things like this that make the average Taiwanese hate being ethnic Chinese and laugh at all Chinese people and it gives opportunities for Sinophobes across the world to put Chinese people down. While it is true China is changing many of the old ways the CCP attempted to eliminate under KMT rule and from the warlord era are starting to resurface as officials become easily corruptible in an unfamiliar system of capitalism and an inefficient bureaucracy makes it very easy for anyone to fall into the cracks in the PRC.

Whoever is involved in promoting slavery in China must be put to death to set an example of what to expect and officials who collaborated in this arrangement must also die. This also highlights the growing rifts in China with a “New China” based around the cities that in many ways starting to mirror the standards in Hong Kong, Taiwan Province and the Republic of Korea while there is a “Communist China” that still resembles the quality of life seen in rural India, Africa, most of Russia, and even North Korea to an extent. Something needs to be done or else China is going to implode much to the glee of Sinophobes and Taiwanese.

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