BEIJING — A factory boss and nine foremen have been arrested in eastern China after the police raided a brick kiln late last month and found 32 mentally disabled people working in what were described as slavelike conditions, according to the state-run news media.
The police said Friday that 80 officers carried out the raid last month and rescued the workers, some of whom had been beaten. The workers were all between the ages of 25 and 45. The brick kiln was operating in Jieshou, a city in Anhui Province, one of China’s poorest regions.
Similar raids were carried out in 2007, leading to shocking images when police investigators rescued more than 1,300 people — about 350 of them mentally retarded — from working as modern-day slaves in brick kilns in the northern province of Shanxi.
The 2007 case led to dozens of arrests and exposed a trafficking ring that fed poor, ignorant laborers to some of the most difficult jobs. One man involved in the case was sentenced to death.
The police in Anhui Province said they were continuing to investigate the most recent case to determine whether the workers were part of a trafficking ring.
“All of them are mentally handicapped people,” Gao Jie, director of the Jieshou City Public Security Bureau, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency. “Few of them can tell where they came from.”
The police say the factory boss said he had bought the workers from a taxi driver in Shandong Province, according to Xinhua.
Some of the workers have been returned to their homes, and others are being cared for in shelters, the police said.