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China to investigate child labour accusation

world Updated: Jun 12, 2007 15:52 IST

China said on Tuesday that it was looking into allegations that Chinese factories used children to produce merchandising for next year's Beijing Olympics.

The Playfair Alliance said in a report released in London on Monday those children as young as 12 were involved in packaging licensed stationery products for the Games at a factory in southern China.

"The Beijing Organising Committee for the Games (BOCOG) has been contacting the factories cited in the report to verify (the accusations)," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

Qin said BOCOG had "very strict" labour rights and social responsibility requirements when contracting factories to make licensed Olympic merchandise.

"If there were indeed violations of relevant employment regulations, BOCOG will deal with them seriously," Qin told a regular news conference.

Child labour is illegal and minimal wages are stipulated by law in China, which has signed and ratified several international conventions on labour rights, Qin added.

The Playfair Alliance, represented in Britain by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Labour Behind the Label, researched working conditions at four factories in southern China making 2008 Olympic bags, headgear, stationery and other products.

Researchers found some of the workers earned half the legal minimum wage in China and were made to work up to 15 hours per day, seven days a week, in what they called "gross exploitation".

Vice Chairman of BOCOG Jiang Xiaoyu said on Monday that he took such issues seriously and sought "to protect the reputation of the Olympic movement and the Beijing Olympic Games".

The four cited factories were all based in the coastal province of Guangdong, a booming manufacturing hub which has absorbed some 20 million migrant peasant workers from China's underdeveloped inland areas.

Among the growing army are teenagers who swarm to Guangdong after middle school or even elementary school for an annual earning as little as $900, meager by Western standards but about twice the average farming income of a rural China family.