95 Chinese officials punished over forced labor scandal(07/16/07)


   China's forced labor scandal has led to the punishment of a total of 95 officials in north China's Shanxi Province, with some sacked of their Party or government posts and others given disciplinary warnings for lax supervision and dereliction of duty.

    The provincial disciplinary commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) handed out the penalties on July  16 to officials in eight counties in Linfen and Yuncheng.

    Commission secretary Yang Senlin said the officials included 12 county level staffs and six city level officials.

    In Hongtong, the center of the scandal, Sun Yanlin, head of the county government and concurrently the deputy Party secretary was fired from his Party post. The commission also advised the county people's congress to dismiss him from his government post.

    Gao Hongyuan, Party secretary in Hongtong was given a "serious warning", Yang said. The commission gave Wang Zhenjun, deputy head of the County government, a serious warning, and advised the county people's congress to deprive him of his government post.

    The commission also advised dismissal of two township officials in Hongtong.

    Yang said eight officials are being investigated by the judicial department.

    The use of forced laborers hit the headlines after more than 400 parents in central China's Henan Province posted a help letter on the Internet last month, saying their missing children had been sold to small brick kilns in Shanxi and Henan as forced laborers.

    By June 22, 359 people, including 12 children, had been rescuedfrom illegal brick kilns in Shanxi and police had arrested 38 people. Police in Henan rescued 217 people, including 29 children,and arrested 120 people in a four-day crackdown, in which more than 35,000 police checked 7,500 kilns.

    The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, on June 29 adopted the Labor Contract Law following the exposure of the practice in order to help protect workers' rights by making written contracts obligatory.

    Under the new law, if employers fail to sign written contracts with their employees within a year after employees begin working, then they are considered to have signed a permanent labor contract.

    "Employers should not force employees to work overtime and employees can terminate the contract without fulfilling the notice period if they are forced to work by violence, threat or restriction of personal freedoms," the law reads.

    The law will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

    So far, more than 30 kiln bosses and employees have gone on trial in connection with the forced labor scandal. They face charges such as forcing people to work in unspeakable conditions and intentionally injuring other people.


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