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Lesson in Handling Crisis
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He was self-critical in front of the State Council. He apologized to the victims and their families.

Now, the governor of Shanxi Province is promising to introduce long-term mechanisms to make sure tragedies like brick kiln slavery do not happen in the future.

Officials at the provincial level in Shanxi have demonstrated impressive efficiency in crisis management. Across the province, a high-profile crusade targeted specifically at "black kilns" and illicit labor practices is under way. According to a meeting of the provincial government on Tuesday, they are in the process of a three-stage campaign.

The focus of stage 1, which ran from June 14-26, was a thorough check of kiln sites and liberation of slave workers. In stage 2, which was due to start yesterday, the focus was supposed to shift to liability investigations.

However, with a great number of parents still roaming the province in a desperate bid to find their lost children who are suspected of being hidden or transferred by kiln owners, it is still too early to declare that stage 1 has been completed.

Determining the whereabouts of the missing people, most of whom are believed to be abducted minors, is imperative at this point. So rather than rushing through their pre-scheduled procedures, local authorities must redouble their efforts.

Given the atrocious behavior of some lawless kiln owners and slave drivers, as has already been witnessed, there is good reason to worry for the safety of those still in their hands.

The Shanxi governor has pledged to leave no stone unturned in investigations. Such thoroughness is necessary in the search and release stage, as well as in liability definition. It is a sensible decision to extend inspections from kilns to overall labor practices.

Judging from what we learned from the fatal accidents at illicit private mine pits, another chronic problem in the coal-rich province, illegal labor practices are not limited to brick kilns.

The provincial government has dedicated the last 20 days of July to the creation of what they call "long-term" mechanisms.

It will be great if they can accomplish that in such a short time. We will wait with interest to see what they will present when their self-imposed deadline arrives.

A long-term solution to such a problem may turn out to be much more challenging than it appears.

(China Daily June 28, 2007)

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