Action demanded after claim employer enslaved women The Foreign Ministry called on Japan to respect the rights of Chinese citizens following accusations that six women from Hubei had been enslaved by the Japanese company that employed them. Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday that the ministry would look into the incident, in which three of the women were taken to hospital with injuries suffered when they tried to escape. 'We hope Japan will abide by the law and respect Chinese citizens' lawful rights,' Ms Jiang said. The women were employed in late 2005 by Technoclean, a laundry company based in Yamanashi prefecture, as 'technical interns' through an agency in the Hubei city of Huangshi . An employee of a Huangshi overseas jobs agency who identified himself only by the surname Ma, said the general manager had flown to Japan to look into the matter. Mr Ma added that officials from city and provincial-level labour authorities had also investigated the case, but refused to give details. He said the women, and most people recruited by his company, were hired as technical interns to get around Japan's labour regulations. 'This is the only legal measure to get [Chinese workers] work in Japan. Otherwise, you have to resort to study or business visas,' he said. According to the Japan New- Generation Overseas Chinese Newspaper, which exposed the scandal, the women were required to work more than 15 hours a day, seven days a week, in return for a monthly salary of around 3,000 yuan (HK$3,428). In the six months from September to this March, the women were given only three days off, the report said. Before a factory inspection by a Japanese regulatory body, the workers were forced to sign documents saying they were receiving a monthly income of 110,000 yen (HK$7,936) and worked no more than the maximum 33 overtime hours every month, the report said. The factory threatened to deport the workers after they requested better working conditions. Fearing being deported, the women planned an escape from their dormitory, which the newspaper said was under surveillance by other factory employees. Three of the workers jumped from their second-floor dormitory but all suffered injuries. One woman, broke a bone in one of her legs, but the others were able to scramble to a vineyard and hide. They were later found by local residents and sent to a hospital, but the other three workers in the group were sent back to the mainland. The report did not specify when the escape took place. It said the factory owner had confessed in a press conference on August 25 in Tokyo that he had breached the law by underpaying the workers. Mainland media reported yesterday that the Ministry of Commerce had stepped in to investigate the case. No comment was available from the ministry. Japan relies heavily on foreign manual labour due partly to a persistently low birth rate but there are strict employment regulations.