The workers, some as young as 15-years-old, had been tricked or even kidnapped by labour traffickers and sold to the brick factory operator for just 400 yuan. They were forced to work 15 hours a day and beaten by thugs if they tried to escape. One worker told the newspaper that they were paid just five yuan for three months work.
This was the second slave labour case to be exposed in the region in the last three months, and local officials from Lilin township said they were investigating another dozen or so brick factories. Previous cases of slave labour in China have tended to be in relatively remote locations but Lilin is only about 50 kilometres from downtown Shenzhen.
The news provoked outrage on social media sites, with netizens questioning why the factory had been able to operate under the noses of local officials for eight years and why, even after the case was exposed, the boss and his gang of thugs had not been arrested.
The owner of a factory in Xinjiang, who used a group of mentally disabled people as slave labour for more than four years was sentenced to four and half years in prison on 30 April for a range of criminal offences, including forced labour and covering up a death. In September last year, one of the factory workers died after falling into a machine at the building materials plant in Toksun county. The factory owner, Li Xinglin, buried the body and did not report the death to the authorities.