A group of fathers from Henan province recently ventured to brick kilns in Shanxi province to rescue their children, who were abducted and illegally forced to work as slaves. There were an estimated 2,000 children, about 400 of whom were from Henan.
After rescuing around 40 children, the fathers’ rescue efforts were obstructed by the local police, who were supposed to protect innocent people but instead were in alliance with the kiln owners. Exhausting all reasonable approaches and obtaining no responses from the government, the fathers had to seek help from the Internet. They published a moving open letter on June 7 on Tianya Club, one of the most-viewed Chinese online forums. The letter brought about an outburst of public opinion supporting the rescue campaign and calling for the central government to interfere. On June 13, Wang Zhaoguo , member of the China Communist Party politburo, expressed his concern over the issue. One of the owners was immediately put on the wanted list by the police as a class B criminal.
Below is the letter posted on Tianya. Partially translated by CDT:
We are the fathers of the children who were abducted to toil at illegal brick kilns in Shanxi Province. Our children, who are very young and unsophisticated, were hoodwinked or forcibly dragged into cars by human traffickers at Zhengzhou Railway Station, bus stations, underneath pedestrian overpasses, or on the roads. They were sold for 500 yuan apiece to the owners of illegal brick kilns in Shanxi to work as slave laborers.
Since our children disappeared, we gave up everything, deserted our hometown and traversed almost the whole country to look for them. After great hardship and difficulties, we finally confirmed that they were sold to illegal brick kiln owners in Shanxi.
We were astonished when we finally caught a glimpse of our children, who were using both their hands and feet to work and whose hair was as long and disheveled as that of savages. Some of them have been isolated for seven years, some of them were severely beaten and are now disabled after they were caught escaping, and some had their backs ironed by the foremen using heated bricks (their backs couldn’t recover even several months after they were rescued and sent to hospitals).
We were too weak. And our children’s lives are constantly in danger. We had to ask recourse from the government. We traveled to the public security departments and the labor departments in the village, the county, and the district. What disheartened and disappointed us was that the public security department in the village not only disregarded our request, but even obstructed us by all means to take away our children. They stood by indifferently when the kiln owners threatened us. The county public security department, after getting orders from their superior to interfere, told us that since the children were kidnapped in Henan and the kiln owners were from Henan, we should come back and report to the Henan police. “We will full-heartedly cooperate if the Henan police take the case.” Leaving without a choice, we had to take another hard journey back to Henan.
However, the Henan police expressed nothing but incapacity to help. They explained that since our children were only coercively detained and illegally forced to work, and since no children died, the case was not strong enough to be registered. Besides, according to the law, the case took place in Shanxi, so it should be taken care of by Shanxi police.
The lives of our children should be taken care of immediately. Who can rescue them? With the governments in Henan and Shanxi passing the buck to each other, whom should we ask for help? This is extremely urgent, and concerns the life and death of our children. Who can help us?
See also: Mass Rescue of ‘Slaves’ in China – BBC News on CDT.
-Click here to see the original letter in Chinese.
-See also This week in slavery from Shanghaiist.