China inspects 3,600 factories in child labour scandal: report

BEIJING, May 1, 2008 (AFP) – Chinese authorities inspected more than 3,600 businesses in a major export city at the centre of a child labour scandal, state press reported Thursday, after children were found working in factories. The children, aged from nine to 16, worked long hours in factories in the city of Dongguan for about 35 cents an hour, reports said on Wednesday, in echoes of a brick kiln slavery ring that shocked the world last year.
More than 1,000 minors were reportedly found to be working in factories in Dongguan and in nearby Shenzhen and Huizhou, which are also key to Chinese exports.
“In the 3,000-plus factories that we have already inspected, we did not come across a situation of large-scale use of child labour,” Li Xiaomei, deputy mayor of Dongguan, told the Southern Metropolis Newspaper, which uncovered the scandal.
Police have so far rescued 167 children in the city, the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper said on Wednesday.
Authorities have set up a task force to rescue other children. So far, 3,629 businesses involving 450,000 employees have been investigated, Li said.
The latest incident shows labour abuse remains a major problem in China, where many poor people are vulnerable to exploitation despite the