The recent rescue of 31 slaves from a brickworks factory in Shanxi province last week shocked the entire country, and with good reason—these people were forced to work under what are, for the 21st century, unthinkably inhuman conditions. But for an estimated one thousand children still trapped in the mountains of Shanxi, the nightmare continues.
But now, people are fighting back. 400 Chinese fathers sent out a cry for help on the internet, hoping for information that would help them recover their kidnapped sons. They scraped enough money together to rescue some of the children, mostly those that, like the men, were Henanese. The slave children from other provinces have not been as lucky.
An editorial (in Chinese) asks the question of where the responsibility for all this lays. The kids were forced to work 14 hour days without rest. Their meals consisted solely of mantou (steamed buns) and cold water, and had to be finished in fifteen minutes. They slept in a locked room, on the floor, with thugs and dogs patrolling the outside. And they did this in a factory that was 20 miu big and in plain sight from the neighboring villages. The question is not why this situation exists, but why and how it could have existed this long. 1.5 years—that’s how long those people were in there before being rescued.
Of course, the answers aren’t too hard. First, it’s hard to find out where your child might be. There are thousands of such factories and mines in the area. Secondly, there is non-cooperation or even interference from the local authorities. The 400 fathers said in their internet posting that local police often held an attitude of the kidnappings happened in Henan—go report it there. If a father managed to find his child, only that child would be freed—meaning, again, each father would have to individually find their child. Considering this, it’s really no wonder that they decided to band together and issue a plea for help on the internet.
The only way that the situation could get any worse is if the slave-drivers are the authorities, which was virtually the case with Wang Binbin, the owner of the factory, who is the son of Caosheng Village Party secretary.
Other reports we’ve read indicate that the rooms where the slaves slept was destroyed and the thugs and dogs have all disappeared. Hongdong prefecture, where the factory was located, has offered an official apology and given each rescued worker a whopping 1000 yuan in compensation. The original “price” of each slave is 500 yuan.
Photo from tom.com