Beijing has unleashed a massive damage-control exercise to repair harm done to the state's image from the brick-kiln slavery scandal. Five suspects in one of the most notorious incidents have been arrested and hastily tried, and Shanxi's governor has offered repeated apologies. But there is more. The central government has stealthily applied pressure to silence the victims' families, even on a lawyer helping the victims in a showcase trial of 'slave masters', to avoid more negative reports. Henan parents who exposed the slave trade in the Shanxi brick kilns said they were coming under pressure from the government. Several previously outspoken representatives of the parents - many of whom have yet to be reunited with their children despite the government's promises there would be no let-up in efforts to find them - have become more nervous when speaking to the media. 'There is pressure on parents,' said a source close to the parents, whose search for their children led to the media spotlight being shone on the slavery scandal. A source close to a lawyer representing victims in the trial said lawyers were not being allowed to speak to the media. Earlier, media reports said the trial had begun without victims being told, forcing the government to schedule another court hearing. Media reports and internet postings have questioned why child abuse was not included in the charges against the defendants, all of whom were charged with illegal detention and two of whom were charged with murder. The defendants include Wang Bingbing , boss of the Santiaogou kiln in Caosheng village, Hongtong county, and its foreman Heng Tinghan , Xinhua said. State media said a worker died at the kiln Heng controlled. The trial is expected to be the first of many connected to the scandal. Xinhua said 160 suspected kiln bosses had been detained. Shanxi governor Yu Youjun , who climbed the political ladder as a propaganda official, has set out a timetable for resolving the scandal quickly. Rescue efforts and the crackdown on brick kilns and human traffickers would end by the middle of this month, and the government would focus on building a long-term mechanism to prevent the recurrence of slavery, he said. No senior official has been punished so far, and the media-savvy governor has even been portrayed by state media as a hero willing to take all the pressure over the scandal even though the illegal brick kilns existed before he was transferred to Shanxi. Although the owner and operator of the Hongtong kiln have been brought to trial, the only punishment Wang Dongji - the Communist Party boss of Caosheng and father of kiln owner Wang Bingbing - has suffered is expulsion from the party and from the local legislature. He continues to insist he had been unaware forced labour was being used, saying his son 'dared not tell him' of it. This contradicts the accounts of parents, who said he used to visit the kiln. An internet posting also challenges an official account which boasted that the discovery of the Hongtong kiln was an achievement of the local government. A local propaganda official told the Guangzhou Daily that a local police officer had been eager to use the kiln crackdown to score political points and had taken reporters to the Hongtong kiln. Without the police, there would have been no media reports and no one would have paid any attention because there were many such kilns, he added. Still unanswered are the most important questions: where are the children? And what about other kilns? The government has confirmed the discovery of only 12 child workers in the whole of Shanxi so far, although a Henan newspaper reporter and parents who embarked on five trips to look for missing children estimate there were up to 1,000 child labourers. Yu Mingkai , of Anhui , said he went to Hongtong county to look for his 21-year-old son after he saw a young man who looked exactly like his missing son in a photograph of workers rescued from the Santiaogou kiln. Local officials told him, however, they could not find any rescued worker matching the name of his son, Yu Wenchun , who is mentally retarded, and said the man he identified as his son had left the area. 'The government is so irresponsible. They rescued the people and let them go, that is all. They should have sent them home,' Mr Yu said.