BEIJING - Chinese officials plan a national investigation of working conditions in small brick kilns and coal mines, following a slave-labor scandal.
Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a conference Wednesday to discuss the problem, Xinhua, the official government news agency, reported.
Officials reported that 45,000 police officers in Shanxi Province have checked out about 8,000 collieries and kilns and freed 591 people in forced labor. At least 51 of those who were freed were children.
So far, 160 people have been charged in Shanxi and Henan provinces with using forced labor, kidnapping and other charges. Some may face homicide charges.
The investigation began with complaints from parents who said their children had been kidnapped. Owners of some brick kilns forced workers to stay on the job for 14 hours or more a day, beating them or setting attack dogs on them if they failed to cooperate.
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