Slave labor in China

Former slave laborer Pan Zhifeng shows injuries he says were incurred at a brick kiln in the Shanxi Province of China.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: China's government is looking into allegations of slave labor that have shocked a country used to bad labor conditions. Police have sent a team into Western China, home to many brick-making factories. The stories coming out of this region are just spine-chilling. Eight-year-olds working in kilns. Workers being beaten and sold. Long hours with little food and no pay. Our Shanghai correspondent Scott Tong has also traveled to Western China to investigate. Scott, what have you found so far?

Scott Tong: What we found is just horrific conditions by two men we spoke to. One man talked about working nine months and he got paid $2. He says he was duped into working at this brick-making factory and then when he got there he couldn't get out. If you treid to escape, eh said, they tried to chase you down and they brought you back and you were punished appropriately. He said even when you tried to go to the bathroom people followed you, so it was a virtual prison. Another man talked of constant physical abuse, that he was hit on the head, that he was hit on the back and the arms and his first day of work he said he was beaten eight times. This man said he was sold for $80 to the owner of this brick-making facility.

Jagow: How serious does China seem about actually tackling this problem?

Tong: Well there are signs that Beijing is serious about this. The State Council, which is the equivalent of the Cabinet in China, announced that they were going to start a national investigation and this came at a meeting of the State Council that was attended by the Premier Wen Jiabao. SO a lot of signs that people at the top are really taking this seriously. The question is: Will these good intentions actually be carried out? There's an old saying in China that "the emperor is very far away" and in some rural parts of China that certainly seems to be the case, where you have what some people say is a relationship that's a little bit too tight between the police and local politicians and industry. In this case it's the brick-making industry. Now that's gonna be something that will be pretty tough to crack as far as the central government coming out into the hinterlands in China and actually changing the situation.

Jagow: Our China correspondent Scott Tong. Right now he's in Western China.

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