Much has been said about the Shanxi province slavery scandal, and China (and the world) has been shocked by footages of child slaves being beaten and whipped and forced to work under harsh conditions in brick kilns.
For those of you who have not caught up with what’s happened yet, EastSouthWestNorth offers an excellent translation (and a must-read!) of an article that first appeared in yWeekend detailing how Henan journalist Fu Zhenzhong (付振中) uncovered the illegal child slaves through three trips to Shanxi. Fu’s first trip was made alone on a tip-off from two Henan parents that their kids had been abducted and sold off as slaves to work in Shanxi. By the second trip, three other journalists from the Henan TV Metro Channel had come along, and by the third, media from other provinces, including the nationwide CCTV had joined him, and that was when the breakthrough was made.
To cut the long story short, Fu has become somewhat of a celebrity among journalists, but not without costs. He says in an interview with the Shanghai Evening Post:
If you take into account the owners of the 1000-over illegal kilns in Shanxi and their accomplices, I have probably stepped on the toes of several thousand people and lately, I’ve also been receiving anonymous threats on the phone from people who said they would come sort things out with me after the matter had past. [Translation by Shanghaiist]
This has led China Daily columnist You Nuo to laud the likes of Fu in his column, but lamented the fact that “only once or twice a year does Chinese media produce investigative reports like Fu’s”.
We hate to sound like an apologist for China’s much-derided media, but we do think that the Chinese media is slowly and in its own way growing into its role as a check and balance on governments, local governments that is. As this case has shown, the Chinese media are relatively free to report on issues going on in other provinces, as long as it does not touch on matters of “national importance”. The official stance in Shanxi (according to Fu) was that “the preliminary investigations did not lead to the discovery of even a single child slave laborer”. There was likely even a news embargo on the slavery incident within the province, but fortunately, this did not stop journalists from other provinces like Fu to rise up to the occasion and uncover the scandal. Yes, Chinese journalists, like their colleagues everywhere else, want their scoops too.
We leave you with this Youtube video which includes some really heart-wrenching footages of parents looking for their enslaved children in Shanxi, and continue to wonder how many of these cheap bricks made by child slaves have been used to fuel the property boom in Shanghai and other cities around China.