Thousands of children in southwest China have been sold into slavery like "cabbages", to work as labourers in more prosperous areas such as the booming southern province of Guangdong, a newspaper said on Tuesday.
China announced a nationwide crackdown on slavery and child labor last year after reports that hundreds of poor farmers, children and mentally disabled were forced to work in kilns and mines in Shanxi province and neighboring Henan.
"The bustling child labor market (in Sichuan province) was set up by the local chief foreman and his gang of 18 minor foremen, who each manage 50 to 100 child labourers," the Southern Metropolis Newspaper said.
"The children generally fall between the ages of 13 and 15, but many look under 10," it added.
The newspaper said 76 children from the same county, Liangshan, had been missing since the Chinese Lunar Year festival in February, 42 of whom had already left the region to work.
"The youngest kids found in the child labor market were only seven and nine years old," it said.
According to a contract exposed by an undercover reporter, a child laborer is paid 3.5 yuan ($0.50) an hour and must work at least 300 hours a month.
"These kids are robust and can do the toughest work," a foreman was quoted as saying, as he pulled a scrawny girl to stand beside him, the paper said.
And meanwhile, guess where the uniforms for Team Canada are being made?
When I wrote about not watching the Olympics because of China's rampant human rights abuses, I was slammed for... well, what wasn't I slammed for. Western hypocrisy, because you're only allowed to be outraged if you come from Ideal World Where Everyone Is Perfect. Ineffectiveness, since not watching the Olympics will not in itself solve the world's problems. Politicizing the supposedly apolitical Olympics, which are awarded to countries to curry trade and political favours. Arrogance, because boycotting China supposedly implies I think the US is just grand. Bigotry, because China is in Asia and I am white.
Not watching the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics is a symbolic action. Just like the torch relay is a symbol, and protests against it symbolic, too. Like standing for a national anthem, or remaining seated.
Not watching the Olympics, in itself, solves nothing. But if I don't watch the Olympics, and I tell you why, perhaps you will talk about it around your dinner table or on your own blog. Perhaps more people will learn about what is happening in China.
If enough people don't watch the 2008 Summer Olympics because they are being held in Beijing, perhaps the IOC and Beijing will notice.
Surely it's not sufficient. But just as surely, it's worth doing.