Couple more articles today about the shadyness of China. I'm glad the west is finally seeing what we've known to be their dirty little secrets for decades.
Another one re: children's toys
Chinese police rescue brick-kiln ‘slaves'
Globe and Mail Update
June 14, 2007 at 9:54 PM EDT
BEIJING — For more than three months, Yang Aizhi has been searching the brick factories of northern China in a lonely quest for her kidnapped son.
Despite searching more than 100 factories, she hasn't found the teenager. But she discovered something shocking: a ruthless slavery ring that has forced hundreds of impoverished children and adults into modern servitude.
At most of the brick kilns, she found child slaves who were forced into hard labour. Some were so young that they still wore their school uniforms as they toiled. When they were too exhausted to push carts of bricks, they were whipped.
The mother's persistence has finally triggered a massive police crackdown on thousands of Chinese brick factories. Police announced Thursday that they have rescued 248 people – including 29 children – who were beaten, starved and forced to work as slaves. Police also announced that they had detained 120 suspects in the slavery cases.
More than 35,000 police were mobilized in the four-day search for victims of human traffickers in 7,500 brick factories in the central province of Henan. A separate crackdown in 11 cities in the northern province of Shanxi led to police raids on coal mines, kilns, private contractors and small businesses.
As a result of Ms. Yang's relentless efforts, 400 parents from Henan launched their own search for their missing children. They risked their lives and spent all of their savings as they travelled deep into the mountains of Shanxi in a desperate hunt for their children.
Their search provoked such publicity in the Chinese media that the police felt obliged to respond with their crackdown this week.
The Chinese media have estimated that 1,000 children – some as young as eight years old – were drugged or kidnapped near train And bus stations and then sold to factory owners for as little as 500 yuan (about $70).
The children were forced to work as many as 14 hours a day in cruel conditions with little food. Some were beaten by their bosses. Others were burned by hot bricks as they worked. Some of the children have spent up to seven years in slavery.
Ms. Yang said she was threatened by the factory owners when she tried to rescue some of the child slaves at the kilns, according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.
The factories were protected by their tight connections with local officials and the police. One boy was removed from a factory by a labour inspection department and then was sold again to another factory, the Beijing News reported.
One father, Wang Changyi, told a Chinese newspaper that he had visited more than 20 cities and counties in a search for his missing son. “I have been to hundreds of brick factories,” he said. “I found many children and teenagers work there. The factories are hell for the kids. … No food but beatings every day.
“The children have no way to run away. Local police offered us little help. They always refuse to admit there is a child labour problem there. They even prevented us from rescuing other kids.”
Last week, police rescued 31 labourers from a brick factory in Shanxi where they had been forced to work long hours without pay. Eight of the workers were mentally handicapped.
Another worker, also mentally handicapped, was beaten to death with a hammer last year. The workers were forced to sleep on the ground and were not permitted to wash or change their clothes. Their bodies were covered with bruises and burns from the hot bricks.
The factory was owned by the son of the local Communist Party boss. He employed five guards and six dogs to prevent the workers from fleeing.
A 17-year-old youth, Zhang Wenlong, said he was kidnapped and forced to work at the factory from 5 a.m. to midnight every day, with meals consisting only of turnips and pickled vegetables. “There was no way to escape, they had six dogs watching over us at night,” he told a Chinese newspaper, Southern Weekly.
Another one re: children's toys
Lead scare shunts Thomas off track
Toxic-paint fears raise concerns over popular children's toys and train sets manufactured in China
From Friday's Globe and Mail
June 15, 2007 at 4:28 AM EDT
For Meg Morrish's two boys, the world of Thomas the Tank Engine has always offered a gateway to the realm of the imagination.
But she's finding it hard to imagine that some of the Thomas & Friends toy trains her sons play with every day on the floor of her St. Catharines, Ont., home could be covered in a toxic, lead-based paint.
On Wednesday, U.S.-based RC2 Corp. voluntarily recalled about 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine wooden railway toys that Health Canada and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission say are adorned with lead-based paint. About 90,000 of the toy vehicles, buildings and train-set accessories were sold across Canada.
Seven of the toys on the recall list are scattered about the Morrish home. Ms. Morrish's sons - three-year-old Rowan and two-year-old Cameron - "eat and sleep Thomas," and have both put many of the toys decorated with the potentially toxic lead paint in their mouths. One particular toy on the recall list, a red stop sign, has been almost entirely stripped of paint.
"I know the [RC2] website says no adverse effects have been reported, but I don't take any solace in that," she said. "I mean, what were they thinking?"
Based on characters from the long-running television show Thomas & Friends, the toys are extremely popular with young boys and are among of the top-selling brands for RC2 Corp.
"At this time, there have been no reports of illness or injury as a result of this issue," the company said Wednesday in a written statement. "As part of a thorough investigation, RC2 identified the issue, isolated the manufacturing facility, and has implemented a corrective action plan."
A spokeswoman with Salmon Borre Group, the company that handles public relations for RC2, said she did not know what prompted the company to launch their investigation.
The company estimates that about 4 per cent of all the Thomas wooden railway toys sold in North America are being recalled. According to a statement released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday, the toys were sold between January of 2005 and now. All of the trains being recalled were manufactured in China.
Concerned parents trying to get more information on the recall from RC2 headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., encountered busy signals on the company's recall phone line yesterday. One parent repeatedly hitting the redial button on her phone was Gillian Grattan-Baldwin of Vancouver Island, B.C. Her three-year-old son, Ryder Baldwin, has more than 100 of the trains, including two items on the recall list. She's not looking forward to taking away some of her son's favourite toys.
"But as long as they are going to be able to replace them - because they're all really expensive - we'll still continue to buy them," she said.
RC2 contacted Health Canada on May 14 to inform the department that the paint could contain dangerously high levels of lead, Health Canada spokesman Paul Duchesne said. Under the Hazardous Products Act, the onus is on the company to determine whether or not their products are harmful and if a recall is required, while Health Canada monitors the investigation, Mr. Duchesne said.
"We acted as quick as we could with the information we had," he said. "Time is needed to determine the effect and scope of the effective products. You don't want to create panic."
Retailers are returning their unsold items to the company and are required by Health Canada to post in-store notices to inform customers.
For more information on which toys are being recalled, visit the RC2 recalls website at http://www.recalls.rc2.com.