China jails 5 in new brick kiln slavery scandal

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BEIJING, Sep 27 (Reuters) Five people have been jailed in eastern China for forcing a group of mentally handicapped people to work in brick kilns, state media reported today, months after the country was rocked by a brickworks slavery scandal.

The factory owner and four supervisors were jailed for up to two years for forcing the group to work at the kilns in Anhui province without payment, the Beijing News said.

''They threatened or beat up the victims to make them work for them in the day time, and locked them in at night,'' the newspaper said, citing the local police.

The police discovered the factory in June during a work safety check, the report said. The workers were rescued and resettled, but it did not say how many there were.

China was rocked this year by a massive slavery labour scandal that saw hundreds of farmers, teenagers and some children forced to work in scorching kilns, enduring beatings and prison-like confinement.

The workers, some of whom were also mentally disturbed, were forced to work before the kilns had cooled down as owners tried to maximise production and meet demand from a booming construction industry.

Chinese official media said last month that the police had rescued 1,340 forced labourers, including 367 mentally handicapped, and arrested 147 for their roles in the scandal.

REUTERS ARB PM0920

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