Christmas cards, appearing to contain messages from alleged prisoners in China, have been discovered by a six-year-old British girl. The cards, which were sold by Tesco and produced by Heijiang Yunguang Printing, contained the message “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify the human rights organization.” The discovery, made this Sunday, once again shines a spotlight upon repeated Human Rights abuses, perpetrated by the Chinese state. This comes in the same week as Mesut Ozil, a Premier League footballer, condemned China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims. In response, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson stated that Ozil had been “deceived by fake news” and subsequently deleted the player from the popular football video game, Pro Evolution Soccer.
Tesco has since responded and have stated their shock at the discovery, adding that they “abhor the use of prison labour and would never allow it in our supply chain.” adding that, should the Chinese manufacturer be found to have exploited prisoner labour, then they will be de-listed as a supplier. Tesco also confirmed that production at the factory in question has been halted and that they will be launching an investigation. Ben Widdicombe, the father of the girl who made the shocking discovery, said that “It hits home. There are injustices in the world and there are people in difficult situations and we know about that and we read about that each and every day.” China has yet to respond to the allegations however, Amnesty International affirms that forced labour within detention facilities in China does persist. Whoever wrote the message within the card also asked that the letter be passed on to Peter Humphrey, a British Journalist who was detained in the same prison four years ago. In response to the hidden message, Mr. Humphrey stated that he believes he knows the prisoner who wrote the letter, however, he said that he will “never disclose that name”. He later went on to describe the “bleak” conditions within these detention facilities, detailing the awful living conditions as well as the questionable reasons for his former inmates’ imprisonment.
The seriousness of this recent discovery cannot be overstated, and an urgent investigation must be carried out to ascertain the details. The existence of forced labour within China has not gone undocumented however, this latest discovery is one of the most shocking and must be met with an international response. Corrupt governance and a lack of regulation within China have facilitated these awful labour conditions however, American economic policy, the ongoing “trade war” and the international economic system are equally to blame. Seemingly, Trump and many other world leaders regard power as a “zero-sum game” whereby there are only ever winners and losers, and this has led to a multiplicity of “trade wars”, the most famous of which has been launched by the USA and against China. Its sole aim is to decimate one economy, in this context the Chinese economy, thus strengthening the other, however, not only is this idea ill-conceived, but it is also dangerous as it forces countries to try and produce more for less. In this context, the most vulnerable, including the working class and children become even more vulnerable as they are forced to work for less and less and in ever-worsening conditions. As long as this continues to be the case, China will continue to attempt to find ways of producing at the absolute minimum cost and this is leading to the exploitation of free labour within detention facilities.
China must face severe repercussions if they are found guilty of having committed these awful human rights abuses, however, an end to the “trade war” as well as a reimagining of the international economic system could also help bring about improvements in working standards across the world.
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