“How Can You Answer To Your Conscience?” – 400 Fathers of Brick Kiln Child Laborers

The group of fathers whose children are missing in the brick kilns of Shanxi Province have written a second letter expressing frustration with the long and painful process they have been through searching for their children and decrying the government for their failure to help. Translated by a CDT reader:

We are the fathers of the 400 unfortunate kids who were sold to brick kilns as hard laborers. On June 5th, when we had exhausted all the means to look for our sons, we wrote a joint letter asking for help, which was posted on Dahe website, titled “400 fathers crying out in blood, who can save our children?“. We were hoping that the Internet would pass the suffering of our children to the highest levels of the central government, and attract their attention.

Our letter has been carried by all major news outlets, and gained the support from many people with good social conscience and responsibilities. Many mainstream media went to the local site to interview, investigate and research, and finally this shocking case that is so tragic, in which human lives are so lightly tossed, that makes all of our hearts tremble, is uncovered. Due to the monitoring of the media and the public’s demands, the central Party gave it high priority. The Secretary General of the Party, Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and other leaders of the country also gave important instructions. The Vice Chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions Zhang Min led work teams in Shanxi province to monitor and guide the rescues. Shanxi government also finally expressed clearly, and all level of governments have declared, their determination to strike the black brick kilns and save the migrant workers. The police department in Henan province is striking at the human traffickers, and are planning to go to Shanxi province to save the children. With the instructions from the leaders and the monitoring of the public, rescue work is well underway. In a short two weeks, much progress has been made and 370 workers were rescued by Shanxi province. The monitoring team member Feng, who participated in selling child labourers, was given a severe punishment of being “officially fired but still working for lower wages.” Party secretary of Caosheng village, Wang Dongji, the father of Wang Bingbing, the owner of one of the brick kilns, has been fired and purged from the Party. Four henchmen who beat up the workers also have been arrested. The shocking case has a satisfactory closure.

Our public servants claim that “rescue work is still under way, no oppressed workers will be left behind”. Looking at all these “happy” numbers, rationally, we, the parents, should feel comforted. But listening to the harrowing reports from the media, our hearts feel even more helpless and sad. We don’t see any hope. In this harmonious society, we don’t feel the substance of respect for life and human rights.

On June 11th, just when the big and small media in China were uncovering and criticising the illegal detention of workers in the brick kilns in Shanxi province, eight of us were still looking for our sons in Linjin village, Linjin county, in Yuncheng city. Under the threat of some of the brick kilns owners, such as “don’t let the people from Henan come in, if they ever come again, kill them all”, we asked for help from the local police station. In the company of the director of the police of Linjin Village (Police number 092703), we went into the kilns to look for the children. On the way we ran into a kiln owner Yao Xishan, with car license number OM061. He pointed his finger at the nose of the police director and yelled: “Who allows you to let them ride in your car? Get them out quickly”. Under the instruction of Yao, the director made us get out of the car. In the morning of June 13rd, we rescued 23 children by ourselves overcoming many difficulties. When we went to the police station in Linjin village to go through legal procedures, the police refused to let us take the children with us. They even did not allow us to ask the kids for their families’ contacts. One mother was even rudely pushed around by the police! We are afraid that the children will be sent back to the tiger’s den, so we talked the police into promising emptily, “We will take the responsibility to send the children home”. But no one knows where they sent the children. In our two month long journey looking for our sons, we have amassed a huge amount of evidence. We have been to thousands of brick kilns, every one of them are operating as normal, and the majority of the workers are still kids. There are thousands of brick kilns in Yuncheng city alone. What about the whole province of Shanxi? How many brick kilns are there? How many children are illegally kept there? With just some simple arithmetic, one can guess. If you say we are fabricating a frightening story to confuse the public, there is the evidence from the video material shot by the TV reporter. And the words and wounds of the children. We are asking: where is the eight-year-old child worker shown in the TV program? And the kid with such a sad face from Hebei who we wanted to take but the police would not allow because he is not “our kid”? We believe the fear and tears on their faces will be remembered by many of the TV viewers. Where are they? Can Shanxi give the audience a good explanation?

What about our kids? They were working alongside the kids who were rescued. On June 4th, a child with the surname Yuan, under the instruction of the foreman, called his father, saying that if the father sent the foreman 35000 yuan, he could be let go. The telephone number is evidence, no? We believe the police department has the technology to locate the telephone. And the kids with last names Kang, Chai, Yang… they were all in Shanxi. The rescue work is near its end, how come we don’t see any trace of them? Where are they? Those one thousand lively children, contributing to the economic growth of Shanxi with their sweat and blood, where are they? All of us parents, looking for our sons with tears and blood, when can we finally see our own flesh and bones again?

The local kiln-owners dared to burn the houses that hold the evidence before the work team from the central government arrives, then what could have happened to the one thousand kids, who are the strongest evidence yet against their crime?

We are all ordinary citizens, we never dare to think of attacking our Party or country. When media from overseas requested to interview us, out of fear that they might use our misfortune as a weapon to insult our country, we firmly declined, even though we were full of sorrow. But how about our homes? Without our kids, how do we have our homes? Where is justice? We ask the people in power who cheated their supervisors and their subordinates, when you are frantic and trying to cover up your crime at all costs, are you truly maintaining social order, or are you creating a disaster for the country? When you are facing those heart-wrenching images and those innocent eyes seeking help, you really can’t be moved? How do you even face the ghosts of the dead? And what can you do to heal the wounds and pain of the tortured children and the people who love them? Facing all the suffering families with their tears and blood, how can you answer to your conscience?

Labor abuse in Hongdong county is only the tip of an iceberg. There are still thousands of lives in danger. Pity the hearts of all the parents on earth! We are giving up our self-respect, and kneeling on our knees and begging our government: Please Save Our Children!

-400 fathers

June 29, 2007 7:11 AM
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Categories: Politics, Society