Saturday, June 16, 2007

China Rescues 'Slave' Workers

When I was a kid and my parents didn't want to throw out food they would say,

Eat your dinner. People are starving in China.

This made an impact, and I resented that I had to eat because other children were starving, but the thought of it, children barefoot and hungry, did the trick and I ate. Years later, my parents bought a dog and the dog took care of the leftovers and we didn't hear much about those kids in China anymore.

Gordon Fairclough (WSJ), with the help of Tang Hanting and Ellen Zhu has shaken me from my reverie.

It's happening again. They're stealing children and forcing them into slavery, this time in China. Chinese bloggers have a substantive presence on the Internet, enough to scare their own government, enough for this story to grab the attention of other news wires.

Have you ever received Chinese e-mail or scanned the Chinese blogs on Technorati? There are literally millions of them. And for good reason. There's a lot to kvetch about in China.

Bloggers exposed the story. After all, when was the last time you read The People's Daily?

Underpaid, under-aged workers in China are lured to work at brick kilns with false promises of food and pay, then held against their will, some mentally handicapped, forced to work long hours for no pay and inadequate food, sometimes beaten severely if they can't keep up the pace for production.

More than 45,000 police fanned out across Henan and Shanxi provinces to crack down on brickyard owners because the Communist Party has a vested interest in polishing the country's international image before next year's Olympic Games in Beijing. More than 150 people have been arrested, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

Parents search for children who are moved from brickyard to brickyard by captors who manage to keep just a step ahead. It's a bad movie. The countryside is mountainous, the trip is long. Success isn't guaranteed.

A labor-rights activist, Han Dongfeng told Mr. Fairclough that forced labor is prominent in brick kilns, coal mines, and small garment factories. A Communist party official's son, implicated in one of these travesties, said that he began employing children provided by human traffickers after falling into debt and being unable to pay local recruited laborers.

So EVERYONE loses in this enterprise.

The on-line campaigns by the parents of missing children prompted action by the government for the crack-down and arrests.

Social workers and human rights activists are well aware of our global problems of kidnapping, forced prostitution and rape. Slavery, of course, is something that should and did make the financial times.

But if the rest of the world is going to be rightfully apprised of stories like these, schools had better be offering more than French and Spanish to our kids (I think they are, actually, in the private sector and perhaps wealthier suburban districts).

Someone in the family is going to need to read those blogs.



Anonymous said...

Actually, Chinese is taught in several Chicago Public Schools at the high school level and there are a number of CPS elementary schools that have "language immersion" programs (K-8) with either Spanish or... you guessed it... Chinese. And it actually works!!! Check out the CPS website if you want more info.. (don't know why this isn't in the WSJ!!!)

As for the "kids in China are starving" line.... it's really important for parents to provide the context. Kids have trouble figuring out that this is not about shipping's about living with incredible privilege -- a refrigerator and pantry that is full of readily available food, enough so that if you don't like what's on the dinner table you can reject it and get something else to eat. Knowing that when you wake up in the morning there will be food for breakfast.. and lunch, and dinner, and several snacks in between. There are too many kids around the world AND HERE IN THE U.S. who don't have the privilege of ONE meal per day and who would give anything for a helping of green beans or broccoli.

We are fortunate to live with such privilege, but we should never ever forget that it IS a privilege, not a right, not merit-based, just luck-of-the-draw privilege.

Emy L. Nosti said...

And then there's...

therapydoc said...

the luck of the draw, or some might say, a gift

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