Guangdong authorities have inspected more than 3,600 businesses in Dongguan -- at the centre of a child labor scandal -- after children were found working in the city's factories, local officials said.
More than 1,000 children, aged between 9 and 16 from poor families in Liangshan, Sichuan Province, have been lured to work as cheap labor in Dongguan, the Southern Metropolis Newspaper reported on Monday.
The Dongguan government had investigated more than 3,600 companies that employ 450,000 people between Monday and Wednesday, but found that only a few small companies and workshops had hired children, a local government official said.
"In the factories we inspected, we did not come across any large-scale use of child labor," Li Xiaomei, deputy mayor of Dongguan, told a press conference on Wednesday.
But Li also said that some factories and mills recruit temporary workers through illegal middle-men, which might involve child labor.
"There might be some child labor from Liangshan, but at present we just don't have the evidence," Li said.
"The government has a clear cut attitude toward the illegal use of child workers, and we will resolutely crack down on it."
The government will fine violators up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,200), she said.
Authorities at various levels have set up investigation teams to probe the racket. A team organized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security reportedly arrived at Dongguang on Tuesday.
"If we find any children forced to work there, we will send them home," Li said.
The recent probe comes less than a year after the media reported children as young as 8 years old were abducted or recruited from bus and train stations with false promises of well-paid jobs and sold to brick kilns in Shanxi province for about $65.
The victims were forced to work almost around the clock, beaten and deprived of pay, nourishment and basic medical care.
(China Daily May 2, 2008)