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Asia & Pacific

Chinese Police Rescue Tortured Slave Laborers Held Captive in Brick Factory

Chinese police freed 33 slave laborers who were held in a brick factory and tortured with electric shocks when they disobeyed their masters, The (London) Times reported Monday.

The brutal conditions at the kiln -- the latest to be exposed in a series of rural slavery scandals -- came to light when a man escaped and told police.

The farmer, known only as Mr. Song, made his way from the dirt-poor, coal-producing Shanxi province in northwestern China to a city farther east, where he hoped to earn more to feed his family back home.

The moment that he arrived at Shijiazhuang railway station April 17, he was approached by a stranger and offered a job.

Instead of the promised employment, Song found himself working as a slave with 33 other men at the brick kiln.

The workers were regularly beaten, and those who protested were given electric shocks. At night they were herded into a room and the door was locked. They were not paid and were forced to work between 14 and 18 hours a day and watched at all times by guards -- who even followed them into the latrines.

Song tried to escape but was swiftly recaptured and beaten. On the evening of May 18, he made another attempt. This time he succeeded, and went to the police.

They organized their forces and launched a raid to take the owners by surprise. They struck early the morning of May 21 and arrested 11 people -- including the foreman and owner. The authorities also found the machine used to administer the electric shocks.

The raid on the kiln followed a series of slavery scandals in China. The most prominent, in 2007, was uncovered when an investigative journalist led authorities to thousands of people forced to work at similar kilns in Henan and Shanxi provinces in the country's north.