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Page last updated at 09:55 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 10:55 UK

Arrests in Chinese slavery case

A brick factory in China, which employs paid workers (file photo)
China announced a nationwide crackdown on enslavement in 2007

Police in eastern China have arrested 10 people suspected of beating mentally disabled people forced to work as slaves in brick factories.

State media said the brick kiln owner had bought 32 such people and forced them to work without pay.

The victims, aged between 25 and 45, were freed in a police raid in April.

The case echoes a scandal in 2007, when more than 1,000 labourers - including children were found working in brutal conditions in central Shanxi province.

Following that scandal, China announced a nationwide crackdown on enslavement and child labour.

Terrible conditions

Under terrible conditions, 32 mentally disabled people were forced to work in brick kilns in Jieshou city, in Anhui province, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The 10 are "suspected of beating and treating the mentally handicapped people like slaves," a local police official was quoted as saying.

The victims had been sold to a factory owner for less than $50 (£30) each, after being recruited off the street by a taxi driver promising work food and lodging, the report said.

Unpaid, and working more than 10 hours a day, they were fed little more than steamed dough.

Twelve of those freed have now returned home, while the remainder, many of whom are unable to say where they live, are being kept in local shelters.



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