Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, July 16, 2007

Shanxi: China's Corruption Meets Internet's Power

The illegal Shanxi brick kilns in Northern China were that -- illegal. But they were also flourishing under the eyes of local Commie leaders, as part of centuries-old Chinese tradition of slavery and thuggery that continues to this day.

Here's a description of Shanxi from the blog RFA (Radio Free Asia) Unplugged, which has a panel discussion on Shanxi:
In these illegal brick kilns, abducted child laborers and peasant workers are in living hell. They are forced to work as long as 19 hours everyday. They live in shanties that stink up to high heaven. They have not been allowed to wash themselves for a long time, and all appear unkempt and unwashed. They are frequently beaten by the labor contractors and are buried alive when they become more dead than alive from the beating. The First Financial Daily reported that the local government has long known about the situation in these black brick kilns. The problems that it reflects are worth pondering.
Hundreds of laborers were kept as slaves in Shanxi, with the knowledge, cooperation and even participation of local Chinese Commie bosses. Children, hundreds of children, were kidnapped and forced into slave labor at the kilns. Parents searched desperately for their children, and government officials found nothing wrong, found no children.

Of course, now that it's been brought into the light, the Commies are calling it horrible and are prosecuting those involved ... but they weren't involved in bringing the Shanxi slave labor camps to light.

A reporter for a TV station, Fu Zhenzhong, did some investigative reporting first, but the hero of this story goes to a 32-year-old mother named Xin Yanhua, who broke the story on the internet, according to East South West North:
Compared to those parents who are at a loss and have no documentary material about their missing children, Xin Yanhua (辛艳华) had received an excellent education and she writes wonderfully. More importantly, she was familiar with the Internet as her husband had started a website with others.

On June 5, 2007, Xin Yanhua wrote The blood-and-tears appeal from 400 fathers: Who will save our children? and published it at Dahe Net. Afterwards, she vanished from view. "I made a post as a family member of a victim. I did not participation in the liberation, and I did not conduct any investigation at the scene. I should not be the principal player," she said.

But there came a day when she could no longer hide herself.

Without her, the Shanxi illegal brick kilns affair may never be uncovered.

On the evening of June 6, 2007, The blood-and-tears appeal from 400 fathers: Who will save our children? appeared at Dahe net. The author of this post which gathered several hundred thousand page views signed as "Central Plain Old Pi."

Fourteen days later, "Central Plain Old Pi" posted again with the second public letter of appeal, Failing to find their children, 400 parents petition again. The post asked: The rescue work has almost reached an end, but where are the children?
Xin Yanhua got into the story because a nephew had been kidnapped. Imagine this happening in America:
In early April 2007, the nephew of Xin Yanhua -- a sixteen-year-old boy -- walked out of his home in Zhoukou in Henan and then disappeared in the vicinity of the Zhengzhou train station. It would turn out that he was sold by a slave trader to an illegal brick kiln in Yongji county, Shanxi province.

In early May, Xin Yanhua's elder brother had no luck in finding his son and therefore sought the help of his sister, because she was more experienced with the ways of the world and may be able to help. ...

On May 26, Xin's nephew and two other kiln workers were rescued and taken back to Zhengzhou by the parents with missing children. Xin Yanhua could barely recognize her nephew: he had long hair and glazed eyes, and his body was covered with bruises and wounds oozing with pus. That night, Xin heard the shocking details of what happened at the illegal brick kiln from the narration of her nephew.

She offered to pay those parents, but they turned her down. They said, "This is not about the money. This is about the wretched children." In her gratitude, she dragged her nephew over and told him, "Please make a bow to these parents to show your gratitude." The child broke out in tears instead, and all the parents were crying as well.

"I did this out of gratitude, and also because of the conscience of a mother." Xin Yanhua felt that she should contribute her meager efforts to help those parents.
Initial efforts to help failed. Bureaucrats excused themselves from the issue because they had no authority to cross provincial lines to save children. The media interest failed to spark a fire. So Xin Yanhua turned to the Internet.

Her first couple efforts to post as a comment failed because on-line editors thought it too controversial, but the editors at Dahe played it prominently, resulting in 580,000 page views.
The raging storm of Internet opinion directly triggered the follow-up by the traditional media. The Southern Weekend reporter rushed to the scene immediately as a result of the Internet forum post. Afterwards, the state leaders issued directives, and the Shanxi and Henan provincial government reacted in a timely manner to initiate an unprecedented campaign against the illegal brick kilns.
This is exactly what I wrote about Saturday, saying "This is why blogs give us hope," about the story of Lian Yue, the Chinese blogger who alerted his community to the health risks of a paraxylene (PX) chemical factory planned for their town.

The Internet is putting pressure on a Chinese government that is not used to being pressured. They have responded with a "Great Firewall" that's designed to keep the Internet purged of criticism, but the wall is no more effective than the Great Wall was at keeping out Mongols.

Xin Yanhua's stories led to raids on the kiln and 12 children were among those liberated. It's alleged that labor bosses moved hundreds of other children to other slave labor camps in advance of the raides, so Xin Yanhua is keeping the pressure up.

When only 12 children ("only?!") were found in the camps, she was criticized for inflating the problem with her stories of 400 children, so she did what bloggers do: She published the truth, working with parents of missing children to compile a list ... a list that ended up including nearly 400 names.

China today. Iran tomorrow. The Internet has given those who pursue justice from unjust governments and freedom in unfree societies a tool of magnificent power and persuasiveness. That it can work against the entrenched power of the Chinese Commies is a sign of its ability to weaken the facades of power the corrupt megalomaniacs of the world build as Great Walls to protect their regimes.

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