China - Forced labour (2012)

Forced labour is prohibited but occurs in commercial enterprises and labour camps. China imposes forced prison labour as a form of “re-education through labour”, which is an administrative punishment often used for petty criminals, dissidents and labour activists and which avoids the judicial system and its relative protection. A similar forced labour system for “rehabilitation” is in force for drug addicts. Trafficking in human beings is also prohibited by law but remains a serious and growing problem. There has not been much progress in prosecuting traffickers and in protecting and assisting victims of trafficking.

Reports of forced labour continued to emerge in 2011. For example, in May, it was reported that prisoners in northern China had been forced to spend nights working as online gamers for virtual gold. In September, a group of around 30 disabled men were freed from a brick kiln in the central province of Henan after an investigation by an undercover television reporter. The reporter disguised himself as a mentally disabled person near a local train station and was sold to Wan Chengqun, a kiln operator in Zhumadian, for 500 yuan (USD8) and later transferred to a kiln from which he escaped. Some of the men rescued had been forced to work for many years without pay, enduring beatings and poor food and living conditions.

In April, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a factory owner and his wife who used a group of mentally disabled people as slave labour for more than four years were sentenced to four and half years and two years in prison. Reports said at least a dozen workers, eight of them mental disabilities, were forced to work without pay and with no protective equipment. The workers had been supplied by a shelter for homeless people in a neighbouring province. The China Association of Mentally Handicapped People has reportedly found similar cases in ten different provinces.

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