In the Chinese western region of Xinjiang, at least 11 workers were sold to a building materials factory to work without pay, said Chinese state media reports.
Among those workers, who have been fed on “food given to dogs”, are eight intellectually disabled people.
According to the Global Times, a man named Zeng Lingquan has been arrested in southwest Sichuan province for allegedly selling these labourers to the Jiaersi Green Construction Material Chemical Factory.
On Tuesday a Chinese official said that authorities were on their way to rescue the group, news agencies reported, citing other state-run media outlets they did not name.
“We are going to rescue them and help them with their rights,” said the official, who would give only his surname Tang.
Authorities said that for at least three years the workers were confined to the factory, living in shabby conditions and toiling. They added that the workers were given no protective gear and were given the same food as the factory leader’s dogs.
The reports did not say if anyone from the factory had been arrested.
According to the factory, Zeng had founded a beggars’ adoption agency in Qu county, even though no such agency is registered there, according to reports.
This is not the first case of mentally ill people being abused as labourers. In the eastern province of Anhui, in May 2009 the police arrested 10 men for allegedly enslaving more than 30 mentally handicapped people who were forced to work at brick kilns.
In 2007, raids in northern China freed hundreds of brick kiln slaves, many of them handicapped.