Mar 21, 2005
A Chinese human rights organization recently exposed the December deaths of five teenage girls aged 14 to 17. They were found dead in particularly atrocious conditions in the Lihua Textile Factory, in a village near Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hubei province in the northeast of China.
For two years, the boss of Lihua Textile had employed hundreds of teenagers from the countryside. They slept in a crowded dormitory, where the five dead girls were poisoned by charcoal fumes.
The human rights organization accused the boss of not calling a doctor when he discovered the young workers unconscious. Instead he had them sent directly to the crematorium. An employee of the crematorium doubted the girls were dead since there was no doctor's certificate, so he refused to accept the bodies. The textile boss and his managers got a medical aide (who in the Chinese countryside sometimes substitutes for a doctor) to testify that the girls were dead. Then they were placed in coffins before being incinerated.
The girls' families heard what happened and insisted on seeing the bodies, but were refused. They were offered compensation of 15,000 yuan (about $1,800) to stop insisting. Finally four days later, the boss and the authorities gave in to the families' demands and the bodies were seen. It appears that two of them were still alive in their coffins when they were going to be burnt!
On December 29, there was a rally of the families of 70 young workers in front of the bodies. The rally was dispersed by the arrival of hundreds of police, and the families of the young workers were held in custody overnight.
After that, the local government put pressure on the families to accept "compensation" of 70,000 yuan (about $8,400) and they were allowed to carry off their children's bodies.
According to the human rights organization which denounced the scandal, the local authorities ignore the existence of a hundred other textile factories where children work in similar conditions to Lihua Textile. Fourteen-year-olds work 12 hours a day, from noon to midnight. They suffer from such exhaustion that they light their charcoal braziers, but then collapse from exhaustion onto their bunks, while the deadly fumes build up.