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China investigates dereliction of duty in forced labor scandal 2007-06-20 17:01:28
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    BEIJING, June 20 (Xinhua) -- The Supreme People's Procuratorate on Wednesday sent two prosecutors to join a local prosecution team in investigating official negligence behind the brick kiln forced labor scandal in Shanxi Province.

    "Our past experiences have shown that dereliction of duty is always behind major accidents. Prosecutors should learn to investigate official negligence when major accidents are exposed by media," an official with the department that examines official dereliction of duty said.

    He said the investigations would concentrate on whether the local government knew of the existence of the illegal brick kilns before the slavery scandal came to light, given they have existed for ten years; whether there was collusion between local officials and brick kiln owners; whether local officials and police turned a blind eye to calls for help by parents of child laborers.

    "If prosecutors do discover dereliction of duty, we will make a thorough investigation and deal with it without leniency," said the official.

    The Ministry of Public Security has also sent a team of criminal investigators and discipline inspectors to the region.

    The Ministry said local police in Shanxi were still seeking more than 20 people in connection with the case.

    So far about 160 suspects have been detained in both Shanxi and Henan.

    By Sunday night, about 45,000 policemen had raided more than 8,000 kilns and small coal mines in the two provinces and freed 591 workers, including 51 children.

    According to local media reports, many parents of the child laborers found that their endeavors to rescue their children were thwarted not just by the illegal employers but also by the police.

    A father, who failed to find his own son but was hoping to rescue several other kids from his hometown, said local policemen had refused to help him. "If you find your own kid, just take him away. Otherwise, keep your nose out of this," a policeman told him.

Editor: Pliny Han
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