BEIJING -- China announced more arrests and a provincial governor apologized yesterday as the government stepped up it efforts to try to show it was responding to a growing slave labor scandal.
Amid the host of new revelations, media reports said slavery ringleaders were hiding child laborers and charging ransoms for their release. Many had been abducted from train stations and sold for as little as $65 to illegal brick kilns.
The scandal shows little sign of abating, despite repeated calls for investigations by top leaders and apparent attempts to limit additional coverage in state media.
With Internet users and some media outlets expressing outrage, Premier Wen Jiabao could see his image tarnished if he fails to follow through on his public pledges to defend the underprivileged.
Early yesterday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported the arrests of two labor bureau officials on charges of abetting slave labor operations in brick kilns in Shanxi Province.
The pair are the first officials arrested in connection with the enslaving of hundreds of children and adults at brick factories where they were forced to work long hours in grueling conditions without pay.
Police in Shanxi said 55 people were being investigated in 15 separate cases of slavery at brick kilns.
Of those, 35 were in detention and 20 were on the run, according to Xinhua. Charges against them were not given.