Chinese hotel slaves

Stephen Frost does the English-speaking world a great service with his summary of a Chinese article on a tale of real badness.

Under the guise of helping the poor, a school offering free courses for impoverished students from Hubei instead contracted them to Guangdong hotels where they worked in manual jobs.

The Huanggang Commercial and Hotel Management School pretended to help impoverished families in Hubei by providing free courses to 120 students aged 14 and above. Instead it teamed up with a company offering hotel consultancy services in the southern city of Dongguan to provide cheap labour to good quality hotels.

Students were promised a two-year course, but after four months on campus in Hubei they were sent to Dongguan on “internships”. In reality, the students learnt nothing about management and spent their time cleaning and in other manual tasks….

The hotels punished students more harshly for failing to obey regulations than regular staff, which often resulted in them working longer hours. Several students tried to escape but because the company held their household registration permits and contracts they were effectively imprisoned.

I am really curious — what is the definition of slave labor? Does this qualify? It seems to me the one thing that differentiates it is that the slaves workers at least were paid something, albeit next to nothing. But if you are trapped, if you cannot flee, and you are forced to do work against your will, are you a slave?

The article says this is going on at several “good hotels.” I wonder if that means 5-stars, like the Marriott, Hilton or St. Regis. I hope we get to hear more about this story, with all the details. It sounds like a scandal waiting to be told.

Thanks to Conrad for pointing me to this.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

Hi Richard. Thanks for publicising this more widely.

On the issue of slavery. Most people now categorise slavery under the following headings: bonded labour, forced labour, child labour, trafficking, chattel slavery, and various forms of sexual slavery. Given that one of the students working in the Dongguan hotels was 14 years old, it’s probably fair to say that he or she was “depriv[ed] of the education and recreation crucial to their personal and social development” – part of the definition of child labour by an organisation called anti-slavery.

You also wondered about the hotels in which these students were working. First of all, the article refers to the hotels as “…7 da jiudian…”. They are not named, but I suspect this information might come out. I’ll be following the story and will let you know if it does. Da means big, but it also means main or great. I translated it here as “good hotels” to imply that they were 7 decent hotels.

Dongguan is now a large city and has many hotels. Without suggesting these are the hotels involved, here is a list of most of the major 4- and 5-star hotels in Dongguan (hotels I would label “da jiudian“):

Dongguan Deluxe Hotel
Dongguan Hillside Hotel
Golden Palace Hotel
Grand Noble Hotel Dongguan
Hotel Silverland Dongguan
Jia Hua Grand Hotel Dongguan
Overseas Chinese Hotel Dongguan
Royal Lagoon Hotel Dongguan
Sheraton Dongguan Hotel
Hotel Dynasty
Haiyatt Garden Hotel (and yes, the spelling is correct!)
Hotel Good View Sangem

Whether the article means these hotels or implies others is unknown.

June 18, 2004 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

Sorry, Richard, my comment above wasn’t totally accurate. I forgot that one hotel was in fact mentioned in the article. A student actually fled back home after working in it. The school tracked him down and told his parents that if he didn’t return they’d have to pay 6,000 yuan in fees.

The hotel mentioned is the Xin duhui jiudian (New Capital City Hotel, or something like that: it could have a completely different name in English). According to the blub online, it’s a 4-star hotel.

June 18, 2004 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

Thanks for the definitions Stephen. It may not technically fall under slave labour for those above 14, but if they are working against their will, and if they cannot escape — well, it sure sounds close.

I can’t thank you enough for the great service you’re doing, helping the world know what’s going on underneath China’s glossy veneer of success and reform.

June 18, 2004 @ 8:11 pm | Comment

China: “School for the poor” in child labour scam [update 1]

On Friday I posted a summary of a story about a school that offered free courses for impoverished students from Hubei but instead contracted them to Guangdong hotels where they worked in manual jobs. Two companies were involved: the Huanggang…

June 20, 2004 @ 8:22 am | Comment

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