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Authorities Seek Greater Enforcement of Child Labor Laws

China must strengthen enforcement of its legislation against child labor, legal experts said on the eve of the World Day Against Child Labor, which falls on Thursday.

Director of the Beijing Juvenile Legal Aid and Research Center Tong Lihua said the central government's determination to wipe out child labor is "clear and beyond doubt".

Tong added: "We have excellent legislation on child labor. The Regulations on Prohibition of Child Labor, adopted by the State Council in 2002, is by far the best and most practical law dealing with children's rights and interests in China."

The regulation stipulates that employers will be fined 5,000 yuan (US$720) for every child laborer they hire for one month. If they continue to do so, authorities will rescind their licenses.

Tong said illegal use of child labor "does exist" in the country -- a fact that cannot be denied.

In the slavery scandal in Shanxi Province last year, for example, some unregistered brick kilns were discovered using child laborers.

Local media reported in April that hundreds of children from Liangshan, Sichuan Province, were swindled into working in Guangdong Province.

The center's deputy director and lawyer Zhang Wenjuan said the government should pay closer attention to dropout students and junior high school graduates.

"Dropout children are easy targets of child labor," she said.

"Under the current nine-year compulsory education system, some junior high school graduates are younger than 16 and are easy to coerce into becoming child laborers if they choose to work rather than to further their educations."

Zhang provided statistics showing that from 2001 to 2005, local authorities in Zhejiang Province cracked down on 2,263 cases of child labor, involving 2,318 child laborers. The children's employers were fined 21.6 million yuan in total.

"Although the nation has achieved substantial economic development, there are still many poor families in remote rural areas," Tong said. "And poverty is one of the major causes of child labor."

He said many poor parents want their children to make money to support the family. Laws, however, prohibit employment of children younger than 16.

"The government needs to improve the enforcement of existing laws," he said.

"They should especially crack down harder on unregistered, small, private workshops and plants, which are more likely to employ children to reduce production costs."

Song Wenzhen, an official with the National Committee on Women and Children under the State Council, said the government had made great efforts to ban child labor in recent years.

She also said the National Program of Action for Child Development (2001-10) released by the State Council set detailed standards protecting children's rights and ensuring their healthy development.

The United Nations International Labor Organization inaugurated an annual event on June 12, 2002, to help end child labor worldwide.

(China Daily June 12, 2008)

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