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China shelter 'sold 70 mentally disabled people into slavery'

Tibetans in India protest against visiting Chinese PM
New Delhi (AFP) Dec 15, 2010 - Hundreds of Tibetan exiles marched through New Delhi on Wednesday to protest against China's rule over Tibet, as Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao began a visit to the Indian capital. India is home to thousands of Tibetan exiles including the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader who has been based in the northern hill town of Dharamshala since fleeing Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising. The Tibetan Youth Congress, which organised the protests in Delhi, said it wanted to highlight China's "occupation and oppression" of Tibet, a mountain region that has seen regular violent unrest against the Beijing authorities.

"The conditions of Tibetans in Tibet and the situation of political prisoners have become extremely critical," the TYC said in a statement. "History shows that occupation and oppression never lasts forever and until that day comes and to hasten the arrival of that day, we will keep our fight alive." The TYC campaigns for complete independence for Tibet, in contrast to the Dalai Lama who favours autonomy for the region under Chinese rule. However Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of inciting unrest and wanting to split up China by covertly pushing a pro-independence agenda for Tibet.

Decades of on-off negotiations between Tibetan exiles and the Chinese government have made no tangible progress. The protesters, who said they would demonstrate against Wen's visit until the premier leaves India for Pakistan on Friday, waved flags and chanted as they marched through Delhi. In March 2008, protests in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, against Chinese rule erupted into violence that spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations. Tibet's government-in-exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in a subsequent Chinese crackdown.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Dec 15, 2010
The operator of an unlicensed shelter for disabled people in southwest China sold at least 70 mentally ill workers into slavery in recent years, local authorities told state press Wednesday.

Investigators made the discovery after China's latest slave labour scandal erupted this week when authorities shut down a factory in Xinjiang in the nation's west where 11 workers sold by the shelter had been enslaved for years.

"Since 1996, Zeng Lingquan has sent at least 70 mentally disabled people to work in Beijing, Tianjin and other cities," the China Daily quoted Yi Hongqu, a county-level civil affairs official in Sichuan province, as saying.

"Zeng does not even know the names or the exact number of those abused."

Yi said investigators found the number 70 in a 2008 account book kept by Zeng, who was arrested on Monday night on charges of selling workers into slavery.

The case comes three years after a major slavery scandal in which thousands of workers were found to have been forced to work in brick kilns in central and northern China.

Police on Tuesday also arrested Li Xinglin, the owner of the Jiaersi Green Construction Material Chemical Factory in Xinjiang, who was attempting to return the enslaved workers to the Sichuan shelter, the report said.

Li claimed he had contracted the workers from the shelter, paying a lump sum of 9,000 yuan (1,350 dollars) for the delivery of five labourers and then an additional 300 yuan per worker per month, earlier press reports said.

The workers worked long hours in polluted and unsanitary conditions, suffered regular beatings and were given the same food as the dogs belonging to the factory boss, the Beijing News said on Tuesday.

None of those enslaved at the factory were paid, the reports said, and some of them had been working for up to four years.

They were between 20 and 50 years old but the nature of their mental illnesses or disabilities was not specified.

In 2007, thousands of people were found to have been forced to work in brick kilns in the provinces of Henan and Shanxi, where they were subjected to regular beatings and near-starvation. The revelations shocked the country.

Although no official numbers have been reported on how many were enslaved, a parliamentary investigation said some 53,000 migrant workers had been employed in more than 2,000 illegal brick kilns in Shanxi alone.

Since then, similar cases of slavery have been reported sporadically around China.

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