Another Black Brick Kiln Scandal Exposed

November 20, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: November 20, 2007 12:00 am

TAIPEI—The media reported on November 15, 2007 that yet another black brick kiln enslavement scandal is transpiring in China. The kiln in question is called Xiang Tai Brick Factory, located in Urumqi, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, where twenty workers find themselves being forced to work for more than twenty hours daily. They are also subjected to verbal abuse and beatings, in addition to having their wages withheld and deducted by the overseers at will.

According to Sing Pao Daily News of Hong Kong, more than one-fourth of the factory workers are mentally challenged. Among the workers there was a man named Chen, who had escaped from the factory. On November 3, 2007, Chen revealed that the factory authorities had kept more than forty farmers, including underage children and forced them to work for more than twenty hours a day. Less than half of the workers were able to stand the slave-like conditions and escaped. As for the rest, the owner had confiscated their cell phones in order to prevent anyone from calling the police.

A reporter visited the factory on the afternoon of November 7 and saw more than ten workers in ragged clothes moving bricks in silence. Three overseers were watching them very closely from the field and rooftops.

While smoking a cigarette, the overseers were seen screaming at the workers, “Be quick! Don't you want to have supper?” A big dog was also wandering around.

A worker told the reporter privately that most of the workers had been “bought” by the overseers at the railway station. Among those who came in with him, only three to four stayed. Many of them ran away without any intention of getting their wages, which had been withheld.

He said, “The work starts before dawn everyday, and doesn't end until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. We do not have much rest unless there is a power outage. But as soon as the power comes back on, we have to work overnight to make up for all of the hours of rest.”

According to the workers, the factory authorities enforce a strict policy: If the workers don't finish their meals within a very short amount of time, they have to skip the next meal.

In June 2007, the Chinese media exposed the enslavement of children in black brick kilns in different areas of Shanxi Province. The Governor of Shanxi Province, Yu Youjun apologized to the public and promised to undergo “self-criticism.”