China probes report of children's slave labor
They were sold 'like cabbages,' paper says
BEIJING - China is investigating whether hundreds of children, most between the ages of 9 and 16, were sold to factories in the southern province of Guangdong over the past five years to work as virtual slave laborers, state media said yesterday.
The probe was launched following the publication Monday of an investigative report by Southern Metropolis, a state-run daily in Guangdong. The report said the children were "sold like cabbages" by their parents to gangs who in turn sold them off to employment agencies or directly to factories hundreds of miles from their homes.
Most of the children were from Liangshan, a poor farming town in Sichuan province, and ended up working in electronics and other factories in Guangdong's Dongguan City as well as Shenzhen and Huizhou, the paper said.
The official China Daily newspaper yesterday quoted Dongguan spokesman Wang Yongquan as saying that the city's "labor enforcement and trade union will investigate all companies in the town, the labor market and agencies."
He told the paper that police already had rescued more than 100 youngsters from rented houses and had arrested several people, but gave no additional details.
The probe comes less than a year after Chinese media found that children as young as 8 were abducted or recruited from bus and train stations with false promises of well-paying jobs, then sold to brick kilns in several north China provinces for about $65.
The victims were forced to work almost around the clock, beaten, and deprived of pay, nourishment, and basic medical care.
The Southern Metropolis said the children from Liangshan earned as little as 30 cents an hour and were forced to work long hours.
The Guangzhou Daily quoted one girl as saying: "My father and mother sold me; I don't want to go back."