- UK-based grocery store chain Tesco has halted production at a factory in China after a report that the factory used forced labor to produce Christmas cards.
- A Sunday Times report revealed a 6-year-old London girl found a disturbing hand-written note in a Christmas card purchased from the chain, in which the author wrote they were a foreign prisoner who was being forced to work.
- The card is the latest smuggled plea detailing forced labor in China that has popped up in clothing and other products in the UK and US.
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Tesco, the massive UK-based grocery store chain, announced that it halted production at a factory in China after a claim that the factory used forced labor to produce Christmas cards.
Peter Humphrey broke the story at The Sunday Times that a 6-year-old girl in south London found a handwritten plea for help inside a Christmas card she bought from Tesco.
The front of the card was decorated with a kitten in a Santa hat, but the message was a disturbing message from someone who claims that they were a foreign prisoner who was being forced to work.
“We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China,” the message read in capital letters. “Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.”
The girl’s father, Ben Widdicombe, told the Associated Press that they initially thought the note was a “prank.” However, they soon realized it was legitimate and contacted Humphrey, who was requested by name in the note. Humphrey as a corporate investigator was detained for several years in China in the same prison.
Tesco said in a statement after the report that all the cards had been pulled from sale, suspended its use of the factory, and because the grocery giant “would never allow” the use of prison labor in its supply chain, it was launching an investigation.
“We have a comprehensive auditing system in place and this supplier was independently audited as recently as last month and no evidence was found to suggest they had broken our rule banning the use of prison labor,” the statement read. “If a supplier breaches these rules, we will immediately and permanently de-list them.”
This is not the first instance of alleged pleas coming from forced labor in Chinese facilities surfacing in the West. Primark launched an investigation in 2014 after finding a note written in Chinese that was hidden in a pair of pants claimed inmates were forced to make clothes for 15 hours a day, the BBC reported.
In 2017, a Walmart customer found a note in a purse detailing harsh conditions that included 14-hour workdays, beatings, and malnourishment at a prison in the Chinese region of Guangxi.
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China’s massive rise as an economic giant has capitalized on “the production of labor-intensive, cheap goods for export” that has created instances of forcibly employing children, disabled people, and federally detained individuals in dangerous work conditions, according to the Global Slavery Index.