Thirty-three officials have been removed from their Party or government posts and 62 given disciplinary warnings for failing to prevent some brick kiln owners in Shanxi Province from using people, including children, as forced laborers.
The scandal broke out early last month, shocking the public and the senior Communist Part of China (CPC) leaders alike.
The provincial disciplinary commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) announced the punishments yesterday, charging the supervision and administrative officials with dereliction of duty.
The punishment "fully demonstrates the provincial Party committee, government, as well as disciplinary and supervision agencies' will to right wrongs and improve work", Yang Senlin, deputy secretary of Shanxi's disciplinary inspection committee, told a press conference in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi.
The move proves that the authorities are determined "to streamline cadres and protect social justice and the legal rights of the masses".
By June 22, 359 people, including 12 children, had been rescued from illegal brick kilns in Shanxi, and 38 people were arrested.
Police rescued 217 people, including 29 children, and arrested 120 people in a crackdown in neighboring Henan Province. More than 35,000 policemen were deployed to check about 7,500 kilns.
After nearly a month of investigation spanning two cities and eight counties, the provincial inspection and supervision departments found poor supervision, leadership malpractice and wrongdoing, and a few instances where Party cadres engaged in the management of illegal brick kilns, he said.
Though no evidence of corruption was found, Yang said inspectors "will continue investigation into the problem of corruption behind the 'black brick kilns' incident".
Among the 18 county-level cadres disciplined, Party and government leaders from Hongtong County were the most severely punished. The scandal was first reported from Hongtong.
"Severe warnings" were given to the Hongtong Party secretary and one of his deputies. A vice-Party chief, who also served as head of the county government, was removed from both his posts.
Six city-level bureau chiefs got demerit grades, and judiciary officials are probing the legal responsibilities of six Party cadres and officials for possible criminal violations, Yang said.
No higher-ranking officials were held accountable, since "other than the direct responsibility of the (owners), the 'black brick kilns' incident cold happen mainly because of lax supervision and dereliction of duty of grass-roots Party and government officials", he said.
In an earlier interview, Shanxi Governor Yu Youjun, who during last month's public self-criticism accepted responsibility for the scandal, described certain local officials as "numb" and "indifferent".
Source: China Daily/Xinhua