Chinese police have detained 168 people who employed hundreds of slave labourers, including some children and mentally retarded, in appalling conditions in small brick kilns and mines in Shanxi and Henan provinces in northern and central China.
Forty-eight people who were allegedly to have been involved in the illegal use of slave labours were detained in Shanxi, while the others were detained in Henan, local police said.
By yesterday, 351 people, including 22 under the age of 18, were freed after police stormed more than 3,700 small brick kilns and coal mines, many of them are unlicensed, in Shanxi, the country's biggest coal producer.
Heng Tinghan, a 42-year-old foreman of a brick kiln in Hongtong county in Shanxi was arrested yesterday after the Ministry of Public Security issued a wanted list of the second-highest importance for him.
Heng was suspected of forcing people to work as slaves in his brick kiln since March 2006, among whom one died and 20 were injured under the extremely cruel working conditions.
Heng was captured by police in Danjiangkou City of Hubei Province yesterday evening.
Communist Party of China branch secretary of Caosheng Village, Shanxi, Wang Dongji is being investigated after his son was found to be an owner of the illegal brick kiln who forced 32 people to work under extremely cruel conditions.
Wang Bingbing, the kiln owner, and four taskmasters have been detained. Heng was the contractor of Wang's kiln. Police are hunting for two other suspects, Xinhua news agency reported.
A few county-level officials involved in the case are also being investigated.