?Parents' Outrage Over Brick Slaves
Original reporting in Mandarin by Kou Tianli. Translated and written for the Web in English
by Luisetta Mudie.
Radio Free Asia
April 21, 2009
HONG KONG--Two years after shocking revelations of a thriving slave
trade in northern China led to the well-publicized trial of a
brick-kiln boss, parents in the north-central city of Zhengzhou say
young people are still regularly being abducted for sale as slaves.
Parents who have lost children and young people to human traffickers
now band together and travel the country doing their own detective
work, amid a lackluster response from the authorities to the continuing
"Often the first we know that these people have got lost is when
they arrive back in the village," Wang Changyi, a farmer from the
central province of Henan who lost his own son to the slave traders,
"Like the son of Zhang Aihua. That happened to him. He went to
Zhengzhou to sell snacks, and to deliver lunchboxes to construction
sites. He was stuffed into a sack by three men, thrown into the back of
a truck, and taken off to the brick kilns to be sold," Wang said.
Zhengzhou, as a major transportation hub for northern China, has one
of the busiest railway stations in the country, and many people are
reported missing in the city every year.
"They were selling people at 300 yuan (U.S. $44) each," Wang said.
"They were able to kidnap seven or eight people a day, and were taking
them away in one vehicle. He was just walking along the street, and was
accosted by three men who covered his mouth and stuffed him into a big
Guo Jiyong, the son of Zhang Aihua from a village near Zhengzhou,
escaped with his life from the brick kiln in Shanxi where he was being
forced to work, villagers said.
Guo escaped from an illegal factory in Nanyang, where he'd been forced to work for two-and-a-half years, Wang
"When he got out, his hair was more than two feet long. He told us
that conditions were truly appalling in that place. He said they wept
every day because they were truly powerless. He escaped in the middle
of the night."
"If he hadn't succeeded in escaping, he would have died, because he
would have been worked to death sooner or later anyway. Those places
are terrible, he told us," Wang added.
He said Guo described seeing young people beaten to death for trying to escape the brick kiln.
"He said that he made his escape with two other people, both of whom were caught and beaten to death with
sticks," Wang said.
"He said all the kids in that place had been beaten into a terrified
state. We took him back there to look for the other kids, and he was
also terrified to be there again. He didn't want to carry on; his
courage was completely broken."
Wang said he and other parents of abductees had spent several months looking for their children in Shanxi.
"The kids in those places didn't dare to call out when they saw us
there. If we spoke to them, they wouldn't say a word. That was because
they were terrified of being beaten. They didn't even dare to tell us
Government-backed network helped
Another farmer's son, Jiu Wenjie, 15, was finally rescued from an
illegal brick kiln in Kaifeng city, Henan province, after being taken
there to work for no pay.
He was released after his relatives contacted a government-backed
information network aimed at tracking down missing persons, a relative
surnamed Zhang said.
"He has already been rescued. He wasn't in a mine. He was in a brick kiln, a place where they make and fire
bricks," Zhang said.
"There are people who make a living out of this business. It costs a
certain amount to transport someone, for example. It's a business ...
They don't really talk about the details of what happened to them when
they get home," said Zhang, adding that the boy's mother, Zhang
Xiaoying, made several trips to illegal brick kilns in Shanxi to try to
"He was made to work from the crack of dawn," Zhang said.
"He wasn't in Shanxi, but here in Henan all the time. I didn't find
out until I asked him. He said he was slightly better off there than he
might have been somewhere else, because there they treated them well as
long as he agreed not to try to run away."
"If you did your work every day, they wouldn't beat you. You had to
start work when you got up in the morning, take a break for lunch, and
carry on working until nightfall."
Hundreds of families
Wang said that he and group of other parents on the trail of missing
family members had seen appalling conditions inside brick kilns in the
northern Chinese province of Shanxi, where a large number of the kilns
"There are a lot of us here who have lost our children and young
people," said Wang. "It's not just one family whose kid we went to look
for that time in Zhengzhou. There are several hundred families
"We have been to the illegal factories and we have seen how many
kids there are there too. These places exist all over China," he said.
"That day we went it was raining, and the kids were in the factory
working barefoot, even though the weather was very cold that day. Their
feet were frozen into a terrible state, wading around in clay pits all
Several generations of family planning controls in China have meant
that the missing children, many of whom are of adult age but still
unmarried, represent the only hope a family has of continuing its line.
They are often also the only hope the elderly parents have of
economic assistance in their old age. Wang was sobbing as he spoke of
his family's suffering through the abduction of their only heir.
"We worry and fret about our child all day, every day," he said.
"I go to the hospital to see why I have a headache but I'm not sick.
It's this situation. Now, there are only us two people in our family
home. We only had the one child. We can't have another anyway because
my wife has been sterilized. How are we to spend the rest of our lives?"
"In the countryside, people bring up kids so they will have someone
to take care of them in their old age. But now we have no one to take
care of us at all," he said.
Police inaction alleged
Several villagers said police had refused to respond after being told that their children were being held
Chinese young people are still often referred to as "children" when
they are unmarried, regardless of their legal status as adults.
Police told parents they were unable to take a missing persons report until the person had been gone for 24
"If you call 110 to report these things, the police do nothing," Wang said.
"That time when we discovered there were illegal brick kilns
operating in Yongji, we called 110 to report it and we went along to
the police station. But they never sent anyone to check it out, and we
waited for a long time. In the end, they told me not to bother waiting
anymore, because they weren't sending anyone."
Miao Lisong, parent of missing 25-year-old Miao Xupeng, said the
issue had been given scant coverage by China's official media since the
high-profile trial of brick kiln boss Wang Bing Bing in 2007.
"The media used to take notice of this story, but now they're not
allowed to report it," Miao said from the railway station on his way to
search more brick kilns in neighboring Shanxi province.
"There are some journalists who planned to come to interview us but
then have been turned back before they arrived here. This has a very
bad effect on our country. Most media aren't allowed to touch it. All
they want to do is put out good news, but they don't want to hear the
bad news," Miao said.
"Ever since the story broke about the brick kiln incident I have
been to Shanxi six times," he said. "There are three brick kilns in
Shanxi. I asked them to look at photographs. They said they had seen my
son. But I don't know where they have taken him since we started to
"Perhaps they took him outside the province, to another part of the country."
Miao said returning abductees had also reported being taken to work for no pay in illegal factories in
"They were all sold for 1,000 yuan each out of Zhengzhou and taken
to Guangzhou," Miao said. "Some of them were tricked into going, while
others were simply kidnapped."
Yang Jianchang, a representative at the Shenzhen Municipal People's
Congress, has been campaigning on behalf of abductees since 2007.
"I first brought this up in 2007," said Yang. "There are a few
places where it is concentrated, where law enforcement is pretty weak
and there are loopholes which can be exploited."
"One of the main problems here is that we don't have child
protection legislation," he added. "Another is that there isn't enough
social cohesion to prevent these things happening. And a third is that
the anti-trafficking squads don't do their jobs with enough zeal."
In 2007, the official People's Daily newspaper, mouthpiece of
the ruling Communist Party, voiced outrage over the revelation that
children were being abducted to work as slave laborers. "How could
officials in the area have connived with such audacious and appalling
behavior to allow this situation to arise under their very eyes?" it
While Beijing has recently said it will remove the 24-hour waiting
period for child abductions, parents also called on police to take the
abduction of vulnerable young people, who may have legally become
adults, more seriously.
"Peng Wenle was the only son we had," Shenzhen-based migrant worker
Peng Gaofeng said. "So the effects are being felt by four older people.
We simply can't bear it. Our grandmother has already taken to her bed
and can't get up again ... My wife has lost 20 pounds. This has taken a
huge physical and psychological toll on us all."
Quicker action sought
Meanwhile, another parent of an abductee, Sun Haiyang, called on police to react when cases were first
"They refuse to take a missing persons report any sooner than 24
hours. But who knows where our kids will have been taken by the time 24
hours have passed?"
"We knew that our kid had been taken by a man in his forties. But
the police refused to do anything until 24 hours had elapsed. A lot of
cases have been the same way. They could have been solved if only the
police had agreed to act sooner," Sun said.
Nancy McBride, National Safety Director for the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children, said there is no waiting time to report
a missing child in the United States.
McBride said her center works in close cooperation with law
enforcement at federal, state, and local level, circulating photographs
of the missing child to the public.
It also gives out information about the child to the media and
displays it on roadside billboards with a description, with cases
including circulated photographs showing a one-in-six success rate.
Examines U.S. Child Sex Trade
By Michelle Nichols
April 29, 2009
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Filmmaker Libby Spears wanted to make a
documentary about the sexual exploitation of kids in Asia and Latin
America, but that changed when she discovered that child sex
trafficking is a big problem in the United States.
"Playground," which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival,
looks at the child sex trade in the United States and discrepancies in
laws and the perception of the exploitation of foreign and U.S.
"We have laws in this country that protect international victims of
sex trafficking and don't have laws that protect domestic victims, but
that's just starting to change," Spears told Reuters in a recent
"Here (in the United States) when it's a 12-year-old girl they like
to call it prostitution, they like to call her a prostitute, when
that's not accurate," said Spears, who hopes her film will raise
awareness and help push policy change. "There needs to be more
resources for these kids long term."
The film quotes figures from the group End Child Prostitution, Child
Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT),
which says U.S. citizens account for 25 percent of child sex tourists
The international group also says 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of being forced into the sex
Spears credits an interview with Ernie Allen, president and chief
executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
for changing the direction of her film.
"People don't think it happens in this country. It may look in some
cases different than it looks in other parts of the world, but
vulnerable kids are targeted by procurers, by exploiters, by pimps,
lured into the sex trade," Allen says in the documentary.
"There are not many American cities, where you won't be able to go
out and find young kids on the streets engaging in the sex trade and
virtually none of that is voluntary," he said. "It's organized crime."
Throughout the film Spears searches for a child named Michelle who
was abused by foster parents and then abducted from Portland, Oregon
when she was 11 years old. She was discovered soon after in Vancouver
by police doing a so-called "baby stroll" and being paid by men for sex.
She was returned to foster care in the United States, but went
missing again 2004 when she was 14 years old and it was never reported
to authorities. Spears found her in 2008. Michelle had been working in
the sex trade and had two young children. During filming she was
arrested on drug charges.
"The fact that I found her was so miraculous," said Spears, who used
Michelle's story as an example of the lack of help given to exploited
children. "She's not well. She's five months pregnant and she's in an
Among the executive producers of the film are director Steven Soderbergh and actor George Clooney.
"We were just there to be supporters of it because we felt the
subject matter was really compelling and important," Soderbergh told
Reuters. "It's one of those things you can look and go, 'That's wrong
Spears is hoping the film will be distributed in the university and
school system. "We're just trying to get it in front of as many eyes as
'I Worked For
Original reporting in Burmese by Kyaw Min Htun. Edited for the Web in
English by Luisetta Mudie.
Radio Free Asia
April 29, 2009
Ko Wunna is a 28-year-old resident of Burma's former
capital, Rangoon, who was trafficked to Malaysia by gangs importing
illegal workers in a constantly revolving racket in which, former
participants say, the Malaysian police are also complicit.?
Here, Ko Wunna speaks to RFA Burmese service reporter Kyaw Min
Htun about his experiences over three months working for a trafficking
gang in the region in and around northern Malaysia's Kedah province,
which borders Songkhla and Yala provinces in Thailand. He reveals that
illegal migrants who don't come under the aegis of one gang are
vulnerable to worse exploitation by others.
The Malaysian government has recently pledged to investigate claims made by many other Burmese like Ko
was arrested [by Malaysian immigration authorities] on Nov. 15, 2008
and was sentenced to jail for two months and one stroke of the lash. I
was released on Jan. 2, 2009. After I was released from prison, the
Thai human traffickers [to whom Ko Wunna says he was then sold by
immigration authorities] told me to buy myself 'back in' [to work in
Malaysia] from the border town of Changlun. But they wanted 2050
ringgit (U.S. $570) to buy myself back in. I couldn't give them that
much money. Those who could pay were able to leave [the trafficking
"Seven of us were left behind. We told them that we
would work our way out. But they would not accept it. They said if we
could not pay we would be sold to an Indonesian boat under a five-year
plan. What we heard about this five-year plan was that if we were
unable to work, they would kill us, beat us to death. We were afraid,
so we escaped in the night. The traffickers and their Thai boss chased
us. We fled into the forest."
"In the morning we saw a tea shop and asked for help. The people in
the tea shop asked what nationality we were. We told them we were from
Burma. They said we should contact the police. We thought about it. The
traffickers chasing us had iron rods and were closing in on us. They
also had motorcycles and if we crossed the street they would have tried
to hit us with their cars. And if we were caught by the Thais we knew
we would be dead. So we decided it would be better to be arrested, so
we surrendered to the police."
Police 'took money from traffickers'
"The police told us to wait while they telephoned their officer in
charge. The police told us to sit and wait at the tea shop. While we
were waiting the police officer arrived. But it seemed that the police
officer and the traffickers had done business in the past, because one
of the traffickers came along with the police officer. They told us to
get into the car. The police officer himself drove the car while the
trafficker sat next to him. They took us to the same place that we had
been kept before."
"After leaving us there, the police left,
after receiving 2,000 ringgit from the traffickers. There were four
traffickers. They kicked us with their boots. Later three more of them
arrived with a gun and a metal chain. They hit us, but not on our faces
where the injuries could be seen. They also used knuckle-dusters to hit
us on our bodies."
"After we were caught again, the price [to
leave the gang] went up to 3,000 ringgit. They said that if we did not
pay the 3,000, the Thai bosses would cut our legs off as an example to
the others... I was concerned so I contacted my home, but they were
also in a tight situation in terms of money. So I did not ask for help
from them again."
Ordered to beat new arrivals
"There was no way I could pay the money they asked for. So they told
me to work for the payment. I agreed and did what they told me to do.
After that they did not look after the new arrivals, they just kept
them in that big house with just me looking after the new arrivals ...
The traffickers gave me a phone, a book, and a ball-point pen. I had to
register their names, their destination, and the phone numbers the new
arrivals were calling. Those who could pay the money were brought
"The traffickers first showed me how to deal with the new arrivals.
If they could pay 2,500 ringgit they were allowed to make the telephone
call. If they could not pay, or if they said they would pay at the end
of the month or later, I was told to hit them across their faces. Since
they asked me to hit them, I had to do it."
"It was not easy, as I myself had gone through the same fate in the
past. But I had to hit them because if I did not do as I was told they
would turn against me. So I had to hit them a bit in front of the
trafficker. But after the traffickers had left, I would apologize to
the new arrivals. I told them that I would have to hit them, kick them,
and treat them roughly in front of the traffickers, but that I was not
really like that. And I asked them to understand my situation. They
understood, as all of us were Burmese."
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia's prime minister vowed to
investigate a scathing report by U.S. lawmakers saying thousands of
Myanmar refugees were handed over to human traffickers with some ending
up working in Thai brothels.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations said in the report that illegal Myanmar migrants deported
from Malaysia were often forced to work in brothels, fishing boats and
restaurants across the border in Thailand if they had no money to
purchase their freedom.
The report was based on a yearlong review
by committee staff who spoke to migrants from military-ruled Myanmar,
also known as Burma, and human rights activists.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said Friday that his government hopes to get more information on the report from U.S.
will take appropriate action," Najib told reporters. "We do not want
Malaysia to be used as a point for human trafficking ... but we need to
know more facts."
Earlier this year, former Home Minister Syed
Hamid Albar dismissed claims of human trafficking at the border as
"wild allegations." But national police chief Musa Hassan said earlier
this month that Malaysian and Thai police and immigration officials
were investigating the claims.
Many who flee persecution in
Myanmar try to stay illegally in Malaysia, which does not recognize
refugees and can arrest them, whip them as punishment then deport them.
to the Senate committee report, "a few thousand" Myanmar migrants in
recent years might have become victims of extortion and trafficking
once they were deported across Malaysia's northern border with Thailand.
"Upon arrival at the Malaysia-Thailand border, human traffickers reportedly take possession of the migrants,"
report quoted one unidentified migrant as saying women "are sold at a
brothel if they look good. If they are not beautiful, they might sell
them at a restaurant or housekeeping job."
It called on Malaysia to investigate and prosecute "the trafficking, selling and slavery of Burmese and other
prospect that Burmese migrants, having fled the heavy hand of the
Burmese junta, only to find themselves in harms' way in Malaysia seemed
beyond belief," it said.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch
said in a statement that Malaysia's government "should act on this U.S.
Senate report to protect the rights of refugees and victims of human
The U.N. refugee agency has registered 47,600
refugees living in Malaysia as of the end of March, of whom 42,300 were
Malaysian opposition politician Lim Kit Siang also
urged the government to "respond with instant action" to the U.S.
report, saying it is "not only most damaging to Malaysia's
international image but raises grave questions about Malaysia's human
FIA Busts Gang of Iranian Human
By Javed Aziz Khan
April 30, 2009
PESHAWAR: The Federal Investgation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday claimed to have busted an international gang of
involved in smuggling over 5,000 jobless youth abroad.
ringleader identified as Maula Bakhsh Baloch, an Iranian national, was
held from Peshawar International Airport along with his Iranian
accomplice, Dil Murad Baloch, when they were on their way to Karachi
via a domestic flight.
"He is probably the leading human
trafficker of the country who has smuggled thousands of people - 4,500
to 5,000 of whom were later deported by different countries -- to Iran
and from there to Muscat, Turkey, Egypt and European countries and
onward," FIA Inspector Shahid Ilyas told The News.
officer, who was visibly excited over the 'catch', said that a case was
registered against the two accused under Sections 3 and 4 of the
Prevention and Countering of Human Trafficking Ordinance.
accused persons were produced before a local court, which remanded them
into FIA custody for two days. Maula Bakhsh Baloch was reportedly also
wanted to Iran and Afghanistan in innumerable cases of human
"The two Iranian nationals visited areas of
Swabi, Mardan and Nowshera to get advance from those willing to go to
Muscat, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus or even Europe. They were asked to reach a
market in Karachi from where they would be boarded in buses to leave
for Kalatoo village on Pak-Iran border," Shahid disclosed, adding the
Kalatoo village has around 50 houses, but two buses leave for the town
from Karachi everyday to transport hundreds of people coming from
across the country to go abroad illegally.
It is learnt that
those wishing to go abroad are smuggled normally in containers supposed
to transport food, oil and other items to Iran. In one such ugly
incident in Quetta last month, 45 Afghans were suffocated to death in a
container that was being smuggled to Iran.
traffickers had abandoned the container after they failed to cross them
over to Iran. From Iran, it is learnt, they are sent to Muscat, Oman
and Gulf countries. Those wishing to go to Cyprus, Egypt and other
European countries are boarded on buses to cross the Iran-Turkey
The FIA had launched an operation to stop human
trafficking through sea, while Operation Fox Hunt was kicked off to
counter the crime through land route in 2005. The agency officials are
of the opinion Maula Bakhsh, an Iranian Baloch in his 40s, has links
with local traffickers through his subagents. "We are after the local
agents and will nab them soon," Inspector Shahid claimed, saying the
problem they are facing is that human trafficking is not normally
considered a social crime.?