China's central government will send a team of investigators to look into the use of "slave labor" at illegal brick kilns in central China, which has raised great concerns among the public.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS), which will head the team, said preliminary investigations show the incident may involve abducted and forced labor.
"The team will find out the truth as soon as possible, and we will go all out to rescue the workers who had been forced to work as slaves in the brick kilns," said Sun Baoshu, deputy minister of MLSS, on Friday.
"The criminal offenders will be dealt with to safeguard the legal interests of the workers," Sun pledged.
A total of 468 workers, 251 in Shanxi Province and 217 in Henan Province, who were forced to work as "slaves" have been freed from brick kilns and other illegal work places.
Police in Henan and Shanxi have staged raids on coal mines, brick kilns, private contractors and small enterprises, as the crackdown continues.
Police in Henan Province arrested 120 people in a four-day crackdown involving more than 35,000 police checking 7,500 kilns, while in Shanxi 38 people who were suspected of carrying out kidnapping and forced labor were detained.
The crackdown campaign was launched after media reports revealed that hundreds of children in Henan Province had been abducted and forced to work in kilns in Shanxi.
Among those rescued in Henan 29 were children.
(Xinhua News Agency June 16, 2007)