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Who wants to be rescued anyway?

HONG KONG (SE): The discovery that not all children who have been kidnapped for forced labour want to be rescued anyway is highlighted in a January 14 report broadcast on Radio Free Asia.

It says that the reluctance of 41 young people in their early teens to be rescued after they were discovered at an electronics factory in Shenzhen, highlights three problems in China: the unscrupulous push for profit on the part of companies and the dire poverty of the rural sector, as well as the thoughtless squandering of money by public officials.

One girl told a reporter from Radio Free Asia, “I can eat rice and meat here. At home, I only have potatoes and corn. I don’t want to go home.”

She hails from Liangshan in Sichuan province, one of the poorest areas in the province as well as the whole nation of China.

Infrastructure in Liangshan is radically underdeveloped, especially in the area of transport and the per capita income of farmers per year is only 2,000 to 3,000 yuan ($2,580 to $3,870).

This is about the same amount as the child workers in Shenzhen are being paid each month.

The young people say that at the factory they have the chance to learn and gain experience, make money and even eat meat.

They told the reporter that even though they work 12 hours a day they believe they are a lot better off than they ever were at home on the farm.

The West China City Newspaper reported on January 7 that a member of the Communist Party Standing Committee of Liangshan, who is also the secretary of State-Owned Assets Supervision Administration Commission in Liangshan, was criticised by the Central Discipline Inspection Commission for feasting on public funds.

While leading a work group to conduct grassroots inspections, the official spent over 15,000 yuan ($19,350) on a dinner in which cigarettes and alcohol accounted for over 8,000 yuan ($10,320).

The article by Zhi Shang Jian Zhu said, “Spending 15,000 yuan on a meal—such squander even humbles the affluent areas, not to mention it happened right in Liangshan, where the rescued child workers do not want to return home because they don’t have meat to eat.”

Radio Free Asia editorialised that it appears that there really is no such thing as absolute poverty, only absolute injustice.

It has been widely reported since 2008 that a lot of child labour was exported to Shenzhen and Dongguan in Guangdong province from Liangshan, a remote area mostly inhabited by older people, minority groups and the poor.

However, the squandering by the local official only led to a reprimand, but if the children of poor families are rescued and sent home, chances are that they will run away to seek work somewhere else.

 

Radio Free Asia says that poverty in remote areas is always troubling, because it results in forcing children to return to their hometown and that is not the answer.

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