BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese traffickers have deliberately targeted mentally handicapped people from the Sichuan countryside, luring them into dangerous employment contracts and sometimes even killing them in mine accidents to get compensation, a newspaper reported.
At least 20 people over the past two years have died in suspicious pit accidents, after which their “relatives” from the remote mountainous county of Leibo have blackmailed coal mine owners into paying compensation, according to a story in the Chutian Metropolis Daily in central China’s Wuhan (www.cnhubei.com).
China’s mining industry is the world’s most dangerous, with about 3,000 people killed in accidents, floods, cave-ins and explosions last year. Mine owners often quickly give hush money to relatives to avoid publicity and safety oversight.
The traffickers, all from the remote town of Leibo, in southern Sichuan province, capitalised on that practice, according to the report.
They lured mentally handicapped people from mountain villages with food, then contracted them out to construction or mine sites.
More than 40 such people from the region’s deep mountains were rescued by police in June last year, the newspaper said.
A propaganda official surnamed Xue in the Leibo government did not deny the report, but told Reuters he did not have any more information on the case. A fax to the Ministry of Public Security was not immediately answered.
The report echoes a major scandal in 2007, when Chinese media found least 1,000 people forced to work as slaves in brick kilns in Shanxi province, following a father’s desperate search for his missing teenage son. Many of the brick kiln slaves were mentally handicapped people, some of whom were so confused they did not know where they had come from, media reported at the time.
Reporting by Huang Yan and Lucy Hornby; Editing by Alex Richardson
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.