China Jails Slave Boss

Eighteen mentally disabled people were found working excessively long hours in appalling conditions for no pay.

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Workers eat noodles at the Jiaersi Green Construction factory in northwest China's Xinjiang region, Dec. 11, 2010.

A court in China's troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang has handed down a four-and-a-half year jail term to the boss of a factory that used a group of mentally disabled people as slave labor, a labor rights group said, lamenting the light sentence.

Authorities shut down the Jiaersi Green Construction Co. in Toksun county last December after an investigative newspaper article revealed that workers there put in long hours for no pay, suffered regular beatings, and were given the same food as dogs.

Since 2006, factory owner Li Xinglin had forced 18 mentally disabled people to work excessively long hours in appalling conditions for no pay, the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin (CLB) reported, citing Chinese media.

Twelve of the workers had been trafficked from an organization calling itself the "Beggars' Adoption Agency" of Qu county in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

They were beaten if they tried to escape and were fed the same food as Li’s dogs, media reports said at the time.

Li had also failed to report the death of one of the workers, who fell into a machine at the plant in September last year, merely burying the worker's body himself, reports said.


The sentence was handed down to Li by the Toksun County People's Court on April 30, according to the official Legal Daily newspaper.

Li's wife received a jail term of two years.

"The relatively light sentences handed down by the Toksun County Court highlights once again the disparity between the punishments for forced labor and other criminal offenses such as kidnapping," CLB said in a news article on its website.

Article 244 of China’s Criminal Law limits the prison term for employers who supress the personal freedom of employees to just three years.

Penalties for kidnapping, however, start at 10 years' imprisonment and can result in a life sentence.

The scandal comes just three years after thousands of workers were found to have been enslaved in brick kilns in the northern provinces of Shanxi and Henan.

Some of the workers had been working for up to four years without being paid a cent. Workers who tried to run away were often caught and beaten, the paper said.

Local media

The 6,700 square-meter (72,120 square feet) Jiaersi facility started operation in July 2006, manufacturing talcum powder and quartz sand.

The story was first reported by the local media after reporters received a tip-off on Dec. 10.

The reporters who visited Jiaersi said the floor of the workshop was covered with thick dust, but workers had no masks.

Li said during the interview that the workers came from a shelter "for beggars" in Qu county, whom he hired through an aid agency run by the now detained Zeng Lingquan.

In 2007, ordinary Chinese were shocked by reports over the labor scandal in the Henan and Shanxi provinces, where workers were subjected to regular beatings and near-starvation.

A parliamentary investigation has since found that some 53,000 migrant workers had been employed in more than 2,000 illegal brick kilns in Shanxi alone.

Slavery cases continue to be reported around China from time to time, including a case in northern Hebei province in May, where police rescued 34 people forced to work at a brick kiln.

Reported by Luisetta Mudie.


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