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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 25 February, 2020
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Mentally disabled 'slaves' rescued from Chinese brick factories

The victims were abducted and sold to factory owners, who abused them in Dickensian conditions.

Image: marc falardeau via Flickr

POLICE IN CHINA are struggling to identify 30 people with mental disabilities who had been enslaved and used as free labour at illegal brick factories in China.

One victim told police he was abducted after getting lost in his home city of Luoyang, then taken to work unpaid in the kiln where he was beaten with whips. However, many of the abused workers taken from kilns in Henan province – after reportedly being sold to factory bosses for between €30 and €55 – were unable to give their names and origins to police due to their disabilities.

A government official told English-language newspaper China Daily: “Some of them can’t even speak a whole sentence [...] Most are staying at a relief station because they can’t remember where they are from.”

The workers were freed on Sunday. According to AFP, eight brick factory managers have been arrested. One factory supervisor who allegedly whipped the slaves was reportedly just 14 years old.

People with mental disabilities are especially vulnerable in China due to a dearth of official welfare services, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a 2010 scandal in the western Sichuan province, a man advertised a shelter for people with such disabilities, then sold at least 70 of them to factory owners.

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Michael Freeman

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