Quotes only - from the below >article< - no comment.
Reference data for comparison (from CIA world factbook) - June 2007
[...] In 2006 China had the largest current account surplus in the world - nearly $180 billion. GDP - real growth rate: 10.7% (official data) (2006 est.)
Copyright notice We transcribed this article for reference purposes only.
Chinese police free 450 slave workersby Jonathan Watts Guardian Weekly 22.6.2007 page 10
More than 450 slave workers - many of them maimed, burned and mentally scarred - have been rescued from Chinese brick factories in an investigation into illegal labour camps. The victims, including children as young as 14, were reportedly abducted or tricked into labouring at the kilns for 16 to 20 hours a day for no pay and barely enough food to live.
The state media reported that they were beaten by guards and kept from escaping by dogs. At least 13 died from overwork and abuse, including a labourer who was allegedly battered to death with a shovel. Such cruelty appears to have been commonplace and, until this week, ignored by local governments intent on boosting economic growth at any cost.
Their plight was revealed by one of the biggest known police operations in the country's history. About 35,000 police last week inspected 7,500 kilns in the countryside of Shanxi and Henan provinces, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. They have arrested 120 suspects and freed 468 slaves, including 109 juveniles.
The results have shocked the nation. Since the first case was revealed on June 8, newspapers and television broadcasts have been filled with images of the wounded, emaciated and traumatised slaves. Some were so badly hurt they had to be carried out on stretchers. Their living conditions were appalling. According to local media they were locked for years in a bare room with no bed or stove, allowed out only to work in the red-hot kilns, from where they would carry heavy loads of newly fired bricks on their backs. Many were scalded. Fifteen-minute meal-breaks consisted of steamed buns and cold water.
One of the labourers, 17-year-old Zang Wenlong, told a TV station that the kiln where he worked for three months in Caosheng village in Shanxi was a "prison". He said he had been abducted from a train station.
The huge police investigation was prompted by 400 parents of missing youths, who posted a petition on the internet, accusing local officials of ignoring their suspicions. Yang Aizhi told Xinhua that she went looking for her 16-year-old son in March after hearing that he might have been forced to work at a brick factory. In visits to dozens of kilns in Shanxi she found child workers still in school uniform.
President Hu Jintao and the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, ordered an investigation, compensation for victims and severe punishment for traffickers and jailers. The leaders rose to power on a promise to improve the conditions of those left behind by the country's breakneck development.
But many commentators believe high-profile investigations only scratch the surface of child labour, trafficking and slavery. With no free media, independent courts or rival political parties, it is easy for local officials to conspire with factory owners to ignore labour laws.
Qiao Mu, of Beijing Foreign Study University, said: "If China really gave the media freedom, you would see stories like this all the time."
Copyright The Guardian Weekly 2007