China police probe Xinjiang 'slave labour' factory

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Chinese police are investigating reports that a group of people with mental disabilities have been working in slave-like conditions.

The 11 workers were apparently sold by an unauthorised charitable organisation to a factory in the country's north-west.

Reports say the workers were unpaid and lived in appalling conditions.

This is not the first time a case like this has been uncovered in China, where there are no independent trade unions.

Media reports suggest the workers lived as virtual slaves. They were given no pay, no protective clothing and had not showered for years, according to the Global Times newspaper.

They apparently had to eat the same food as the factory owner's dogs.

One man said he twice tried to escape but was caught and badly beaten.

'Extremely concerned'

The workers were apparently rounded up in the county of Qu in Sichuan Province by a man running what was supposed to be a charitable organisation.

The Quxian Beggars' Adoption Agency then sold the workers to a factory making construction materials in the county of Toksun in Xinjiang.

According to the Global Times, it received 9,000 yuan (£850, $1,350) for each employee. It was also paid 300 yuan a month for each worker.

Zeng Lingquan, the man who ran the agency, is now in police custody.

"The Qu county party committee and the local government are extremely concerned about this case," read a statement from county officials.

"Government departments immediately organised a working group that began an investigation and organised rescue work."

Li Xinglin, the boss of the factory, has disappeared. The police are searching for him.

This is not the first time this type of case has surfaced in China.

Three years ago, hundreds of people were found working in slave-like conditions in brick kilns in Shanxi Province.

The police then promised to stop this kind of thing happening again.

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