Chinese Internet responses to slave children case

The case of the children enslaved at a Shanxi brick factory has been widely reported in the Western and Chinese media, and is all over the Internet in both Chinese and English languages (a good summary by Chen Peijin of Shanghaiist is here, with another later summary by Chris Buckley of Reuters here).

There are a few interesting aspects of the story as related to media. Firstly, an open letter from the fathers of some of the children posted to the popular Tianya forum seems to have been a key factor in forcing government action. This is how China Digital Times described the events:

A group of fathers from Henan province recently ventured to brick kilns in Shanxi province to rescue their children, who were abducted and illegally forced to work as slaves...

After rescuing around 40 children, the fathers’ rescue efforts were obstructed by the local police, who were supposed to protect innocent people but instead were in alliance with the kiln owners. Exhausting all reasonable approaches and obtaining no responses from the government, the fathers had to seek help from the Internet. They published a moving open letter on June 7 on Tianya Club...

The letter brought about an outburst of public opinion supporting the rescue campaign and calling for the central government to interfere. On June 13, Wang Zhaoguo , member of the China Communist Party politburo, expressed his concern over the issue. One of the owners was immediately put on the wanted list by the police as a class B criminal.

State media have published news about the story, with the most aggressive reporting being done by The China Daily: Slave-labor boss detained amid national shock.

However, the government has also sought to minimize the effect of the affair on the 'harmonious society'. On June 15, China Digital Times translated a letter purporting to be from 'The Internet Bureau, CPC Central Office of External Communication' which ordered news websites that 'Harmful information that uses this event to attack the party and the government should be deleted as soon as possible.'

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of Chinese blog and forum posts about the affair, including the original letter from the enslaved children's fathers.

This case is yet another in a growing list of cases of citizen activism on the Chinese Internet, and another encouraging sign that the government is listening to online chatter.

Comments on Tianya

Below are translations of some comments to the original Tianya post:

If I did not read Tianya, I would not know how dark and corrupt this society is...

The police and the gangsters are the same! I am disappointed by the local government, I hope the state takes action.

Socialism! Now it's not even as good as capitalism!

These f*cking beasts must be severely punished!

CCTV! ! Focus Interview! [焦点访谈 — a news program that is supposed to investigate malfeasance in China] Why have you lost your voice at this time?

Why don't the local cops just go die? How the hell can they prevent [the fathers] from taking their children away? They are not little dogs and cats, these are real lives, real children!

What does the goveroer of Shanxi Province do for his salary? Why don't they stop this? Why don't they punish the offenders severely?

It a rerun of the slave plantations in the American south.

No humanity! No justice!

Why does Tianya makes people feel so cold so often?

I felt icy cold in 30 degree weather, even without turning on the air conditioner. 

Our material life is in the 21st century already, but is it possible that our morality remains in the Middle Age

Shoot those who should be shot! Close down that which should be closed down!

China Digital Times' translation of Tianya forum post by children's fathers is reproduced below, together with the original Chinese of the comments translated above.

China Digital Times' translation of Tianya forum post by children's fathers:

We are the fathers of the children who were abducted to toil at illegal brick kilns in Shanxi Province. Our children, who are very young and unsophisticated, were hoodwinked or forcibly dragged into cars by human traffickers at Zhengzhou Railway Station, bus stations, underneath pedestrian overpasses, or on the roads. They were sold for 500 yuan apiece to the owners of illegal brick kilns in Shanxi to work as slave laborers.

Since our children disappeared, we gave up everything, deserted our hometown and traversed almost the whole country to look for them. After great hardship and difficulties, we finally confirmed that they were sold to illegal brick kiln owners in Shanxi.

We were astonished when we finally caught a glimpse of our children, who were using both their hands and feet to work and whose hair was as long and disheveled as that of savages. Some of them have been isolated for seven years, some of them were severely beaten and are now disabled after they were caught escaping, and some had their backs ironed by the foremen using heated bricks (their backs couldn’t recover even several months after they were rescued and sent to hospitals).

We were too weak. And our children’s lives are constantly in danger. We had to ask recourse from the government. We traveled to the public security departments and the labor departments in the village, the county, and the district. What disheartened and disappointed us was that the public security department in the village not only disregarded our request, but even obstructed us by all means to take away our children. They stood by indifferently when the kiln owners threatened us. The county public security department, after getting orders from their superior to interfere, told us that since the children were kidnapped in Henan and the kiln owners were from Henan, we should come back and report to the Henan police. “We will full-heartedly cooperate if the Henan police take the case.” Leaving without a choice, we had to take another hard journey back to Henan.

However, the Henan police expressed nothing but incapacity to help. They explained that since our children were only coercively detained and illegally forced to work, and since no children died, the case was not strong enough to be registered. Besides, according to the law, the case took place in Shanxi, so it should be taken care of by Shanxi police.

The lives of our children should be taken care of immediately. Who can rescue them? With the governments in Henan and Shanxi passing the buck to each other, whom should we ask for help? This is extremely urgent, and concerns the life and death of our children. Who can help us?

Original Chinese of Tianya comments translated above:

CCTV! 焦点访谈! 这个时候为什么要失声?????




和谐社会啊!!! 我想杀人啊!!!







There are currently 7 Comments for Chinese Internet responses to slave children case.

Comments on Chinese Internet responses to slave children case

On one hand, it is in the nation's best interest to have the highest amount of economic growth possible. On the other hand, excessive injustice in the system threatens social harmony and thus economic growth. In China's current situation, cut-rate measures like this add too much to injustice while not really adding to economic growth. What the hell is going on here? Can't the provincial leaders read orders from the central government? The idiot running Shanxi should certainly be, first, sacked, then expelled from the party, then jailed. This should send a clear signal to other provincial leaders to clean their damn act up.

What is wrong with Hu-Wen? They've been going on about a Harmonious Society for the past few years, yet we still get shit like this? Maybe it's because they still need to consolidate political power, and things will get better after the next Party Congress. And what was that about matching the United States in Comprehensive National Power by 2020? Inflation is rearing its ugly head now that food prices are being allowed to increase in order to lessen the rural-urban gap and deal with the absurd Gini coefficient. The RMB is appreciating by leaps and bounds. Until you can get this house in order, you'll have to push back the timetable 20 years at the least. Ugh, if only you had nipped this in the bud instead of letting it fester for 5 years too long. Ah well, perhaps it was an excessive expectation to expect China to anticipate its future social problems. Hope you get the Yangtze bridge problem fixed soon, and that your rail upgrades are a success.

As usual, the state tries to minimize the effects of "negative" news. The organization Human Rights in China has written a report documenting the laws China uses to make sure information is keep classified. In its 1988 state secrets law, there's a catch all clause: "Other matters" can also be classified as state secrets.

But with internet and a more courageous public, the state will find it increasingly hard to suppress info.

Someone said,
"It a rerun of the slave plantations in the American south."

Not at the U.S. at that time it was an acceptable practice and wasn't hidden...this is 2007 and they were hiding this stuff as if it never took place. The U.S. also had accountability and the situation has been corrected...will that happen there?...probably never.

Please don't get Athenian on us. Because other countries don't have our specific values or conform to our operating practices, their particular society is defective and cannot work.

There's been a lot of work going forward in subverting the internet. Golden Shield has in fact achieved its purpose, which is to minimize the flow of outside ideologies and limit the flow of information the state considers undesirable. Sure, the Chinese equivalent of Slashdot users can go through the trouble of foiling and bypassing Chinese internet filters, but on the ground, there's a general lack of interest. Further, the Chinese governments are learning how to use sock puppetry and other trolling methods to manipulate internet opinion.

FRITZ, as you can see, the Chinese government has significantly downgraded its social controls during the past 30 years. It is no longer a totalitarian government and has become far more fragile and unstable. Popular opinion now no longer wholly under the control of the government, and the water can sink the boat. In this case, what is the best way to manipulate popular opinion? Increasing political controls furthers corruption, and at the present rate, is nearing the point of diminishing returns. What about reacting to the actual problem? How much state resources do you think it would cost to deal with this problem?

Uh, isn't that "agressive reporting" by China Daily just the Reuters piece with a change in the lead? Or does changing a sentence in a wire report qualify as aggressive reporting at China Daily Online?

"FRITZ, as you can see, the Chinese government has significantly downgraded its social controls during the past 30 years. It is no longer a totalitarian government and has become far more fragile and unstable. Popular opinion now no longer wholly under the control of the government, and the water can sink the boat. In this case, what is the best way to manipulate popular opinion? Increasing political controls furthers corruption, and at the present rate, is nearing the point of diminishing returns. What about reacting to the actual problem? How much state resources do you think it would cost to deal with this problem?"---INST

Inst, What the hell are you talking about? You make no sense.

What you do is find out who is responsible, hold them accountable, determine the damages, set a precedent, and make sure it doesn't happen again. Make an example of those who committed this tragedy and move on...

Don't tell me its too big or too difficult a problem.

A short example of how resourceful China is and how fast something can be remedied.

In the 1970s when NIXON made his first historic trip to China there was a heavy snow. Nixon mentioned something about wanting to visit the Great Wall in the last a moments notice there were millions mobilized to clear the road to Badaling...that's about an hour 15 plus and the roads at that time probably weren't as good...there weren't plows or shovels...the locals used brooms. If they could do something this big, so fast at that time when they had no tools then China can certainly fix this problem.

Make heads roll...fix it. Less talk, more rock.


don't you guys see you're only agreeing between americans? don't you notice there are no chinese, german, russian, french comments? because what you say is so sectarian it's not even worth discussing with you.

am i the only socialist here? probably. and that's how i often feel, damn, this is a socialist country, one of the reasons i moved here, and all i've got is being surrounded by democratic yanks who talk about how to "liberate" China, how to teach them the good manners, how to make them think the yankee way like in their colonies in HK and Taiwan.

i mean really get the f-uck out of china please.

do you think the Beijingren ever heard of 1989 etc? or about filtered sites? c'mon, you obviously know shit about the chinese.

they've even many songs about it, but how can you know it if all you do is hanging out with fellow laowai and dating golddiggers in Sanlitun ?

really, you make me puke, get the f-uck out of China please. you're in serious need of a re-education camp.

"don't give pearls to the pigs".

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