Tragedy of Child Laborers in Guangdong

May 2, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: May 2, 2008 12:00 am

In recent years, large numbers of children have been coaxed by foremen to travel to the Pearl River Delta region as child laborers; most are under 16 years old. The working environment is very poor, escape will meet with death threats and beautiful girls are easily taken advantage of.

According to reports, these children normally come from Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Foremen use so-called “high pay” as bait and sort out or even abduct children from poor families. After a pay cut to the foremen, contractors, and black agents, they receive only a third of their wage.

Traded Like Cabbage

According to the mainland newspaper Southern Metropolitan, under the pressure of poverty, some parents also sent their unwilling children to foremen in the hope of receiving some money to help their family. Nearly a hundred young children gathered in front of a small supermarket carrying washbowls, quilts, etc., some even looked under 10 years old. They looked like displayed merchandise in a supermarket lined up row by row to be picked.

According to a local resident Mr. Min Shao, some factory bosses come here to pick child laborers. It's not the peak season right now, but by November and December, there will be several truck loads of children being shipped here and then shipped away, “being sold like cabbage” to Pearl River Delta region.

Hunger and Violence

When the factory has no work, foremen only pay them 10 yuan (under $1.5 USD) per day. After the rent, only 5 RMB is left for them to eat. These child laborers must relay on steamed buns to live. They can only afford a rice meal once every few days when the hunger becomes unbearable.

Most of these child laborers live in a rented house or small hotel near Shipai market. The rooms are less than 10 square meters, and the bed occupies most of the space. The rooms are dark and damp with the smell of mildew. They say that everyone lived in such a place before finding a job.

To maximize profits, the foremen force them to work 12 to 15 hours a day. They are often beaten and scolded; sometimes they may have a satisfying meal only once in a few days.

According to a child laborer, somewhat good looking girls may be raped at any time, and some beautiful girls would be allured to take drugs by the boss and finally be sent to places for amusement.

Escape Meets Death

Under this arduous work day after day, these children think of escaping. But the roads are sealed off, and foremen threaten them with death and warn them of the price of escape.

Ten year old Amo says he has worked in an electronic factory in Dongguan for two months, 15 hours a day from 8 a.m. to 12:30 the following morning without a break in between. “I am very tired, I want to go home, we all want to go home, but we have no bus fare.”

An older child laborer said that the foremen often threatened them: “Any desire to escape or go home is a dead end.” This child laborer said that if he runs away or goes to another foreman, he might die, because the foreman would send someone to kill him. Child laborers all say that there are thugs and supervisors under each foreman.

It is said that underground labor agents have used Dongguan as a transport center from which Liangshan children are shipped to various factories in the Pearl River Delta region.