Police say petitioner forced to toil

Updated: 2011-10-21 08:11

(China Daily)

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SHIJIAZHUANG - Police officials said on Thursday that a rural resident who traveled to Beijing to petition authorities about his grievances was kidnapped by human traffickers and forced to toil in a small brick kiln, confirming a recent report that petitioners are being preyed upon in the capital.

Wuqiao county police, in North China's Hebei province, said human traffickers tricked Yang Xiangzheng, 57, and six other men in June into working in one of Wuqiao's small brick kilns. The police said the kiln paid the traffickers 1,600 yuan ($252) for each laborer.

After seven days of toil, Yang fled the brick kiln. The police are still probing Yang's assertion that he and his fellow workers there were treated like slaves and frequently beaten, a charge the brick kiln owner and other employees have denied.

Yang's case was first reported by the Southern Metropolis Daily on Wednesday.

The report said Yang traveled to Beijing in June from his home village in Central China's Hunan province to air his grievances about a suspected land grab by local officials. Rather than seeing his complaints redressed, he was met with neglect, he said. While sleeping on a roadside, he was kidnapped by a group of men and taken to the brick kiln in Wuqiao.

Yang described humiliating working and living conditions - laborers were forced to have their heads shaved, to put on uniforms like those worn by prisoners and to sleep with dogs, according to the report.

In keeping with a centuries-old tradition, rural residents who find that local officials are ignoring their complaints sometimes travel to Beijing to petition higher authorities. According to reports, many of them are often rounded up and brought back to their home provinces.

In September, a tourist traveling to Beijing was mistaken to be a petitioner, brutally beaten, and brought back to his home province, Henan, by thugs hired by local officials. As a result of the scandal, six officials were fired.

It was not immediately known if official misconduct had contributed to Yang's plight. In China, human traffickers will often roam bus and railway stations, conning job seekers with false offers and sometimes abducting them. Some victims are directly sold to buyers, while others are sent to slave agents who sell them to factories throughout the country.