China Thursday called on Japan to respect and safeguard the rights of Chinese workers, following a media report of six women being enslaved and abused by the Japanese firm that employed them.
At a regular press briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said: "We hope the Japanese side will launch an immediate investigation, and handle the case properly and fairly to safeguard the interests of Chinese workers in Japan."
"The Chinese embassy to Japan has expressed grave concern to the local police and labor protection supervision departments," Jiang said .
"The embassy has sent officials to meet with the Japanese employers and relevant departments. They have also visited the women workers and expressed sympathy and solicitude," she said.
According to a report this week in a Hubei newspaper, the six women, who all hail from the province, had been forced to work as "slaves" at a laundry owned by Techoclean in the Yamanashi prefecture in central Japan.
The women were made to work for more than 15 hours a day under extremely poor conditions and paid just 22 yuan ($3.25) per hour, far below Japan's legal minimum rate of 51 yuan per hour, the report said.
They also contracted fungal skin infections from wearing rubber gloves and shoes for extended periods, and suffered chemical burns from handling detergent, it said.
When the women protested about their poor wages and conditions, however, three of them were severely beaten and the others were sent back home, the report said.
The women went to Japan in 2005 with the offer to work as interns at a clothing factory.
However, a month after their arrival, they were sent to work at the laundry, the Hubei paper said.