China sentenced a man to death and jailed another 28 people for
up to life on Tuesday for their roles in a massive slavery and
child labour scandal involving scorching brickworks in Shanxi
The owners, managers and thugs at the prison-like kilns which
the Chinese media said numbered in the hundreds in the northern
province of Shanxi were convicted of charges including forced
labour and illegal detention, an official said.
Zhao Yanbing received the death penalty from the Linfen
Intermediate People's Court for accidentally killing a worker on a
"black brick kiln" in Hongtong county, at the centre of the
The court also deprived off his political rights.
The slave labor scandal erupted last month after hundreds of
parents complained their children were being forced to work in
brick kilns in Henan, Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces.
Zhao, who was hired to supervise workers in the kiln, was found
guilty of manslaughter by the court, according to a press
conference by Vice President Liu Jimin of Shanxi Provincial Higher
People's Court on Tuesday in Taiyuan, provincial capital.
Zhao had previously admitted to beating a mentally handicapped
man to death for not working fast enough last November.
Foreman Heng Tinghan was given life imprisonment for
intentionally injuring workers and for illegal detention. Following
his arrest last month, Heng famously said about his role in the
scandal, "I felt it was a fairly small thing."
The boss of the kiln, Wang Bingbing, the son of a local
Communist Party village chief, was sentenced to nine years in
prison for illegal detention.
Twenty-six other employees were given prison sentences. Six
taskmasters, convicted of forcing workers to work in brick kilns
owned by Wang in Caosheng Village, from March to late May this
year, have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from 18 months to
The workers had been forced to work overtime without payment.
During the period, 18 workers were injured, one seriously, in
unspeakable working conditions.
A total of 29 brick kiln bosses, foremen, supervisors or
taskmasters, tried by courts in different cities and counties of
Shanxi in seven separate cases, have been given different jail
terms so far, the court statement concluded.
Sentences of a further 12 people involved in five cases are
expected to be made public in a couple of days, the court spokesman
95 Officials Punished
China has punished dozens of officials for allowing slave-like
exploitation of workers and children in brick kilns, but announced
criminal investigations against only six.
Reports that hundreds of farmers, teenagers and some children
had been forced or lured to work in kilns and mines in the northern
province of Shanxi sparked nationwide outrage last month.
They endured prison-like confinement and brutal beatings, local
media reported. TV news showed released workers with emaciated
bodies and festering wounds, and China's leaders promised to punish
Shanxi authorities on Monday announced the results of their
investigation. The focus was on low-ranking officials who received
administrative punishments, and investigators said they had not
found evidence of corruption or collusion.
Almost all of the 95 punished were from eight counties in the
Shanxi cities of Linfen and Yuncheng. They were sacked, demoted,
expelled from the Communist Party or merely received warnings,
Xinhua news agency said.
The deputy party chief who also served as government head of
Hongtong county, at the centre of the scandal, would be fired, said
Yang Senlin, a top discipline official with the Communist Party's
Shanxi province office.
Six Hongtong officials were being probed by judicial departments
and faced possible criminal charges, Yang said.
"Other than the direct responsibility of the (owners), the
'black brick kilns' incident happened mainly because of lax
supervision and dereliction of duty of grassroots party and
government officials," Yang said.
Investigators had found no evidence of official corruption that
many Chinese media reports alleged, Yang said.
"After about one month of serious investigation, we haven't
found problems of this kind," he told a news conference in
provincial capital Taiyuan.
Yang said the punishments were unusually harsh. But there was no
high-ranking officials among those punished.
According to the Chinese laws and regulations, the county and
township party organizations and governments are directly
responsible for the management and administration of rural brick
kilns and rural labor. So the county and township officials were
directly accountable to such happenings, Yang said.
However, Yang added, the city Party committees and governments
in the areas should also shoulder some responsibility, and the
Linfen and Yuncheng Party committees and governments have been
reprimanded by the provincial Party committee and government, and
requested to make profound self-crtiticism.
Police have detained more than 130 people, mostly owners of the
brickworks, which Chinese media said numbered in the hundreds, and
thugs working for them, and more than 500 workers had been
released, state media have said.
Dozens went on trial earlier this month, but no rulings have
Yang said several officials had been punished in connection with
six child labourers freed from five brick kilns. Chinese media have
said the number of children confined to the scorching kilns could
have been as many as 1,000.
(Xinhua News Agency July 18, 2007)