Here’s a thought to chill the blood as you prepareChristmasstockings or wrap up toys intended for the delight of the children you love. What if these knick-knacks were made in concentration camps, by forced labor?
This horrible thought is prompted by the experience of six-year-old Florence Widdicombe, who when opening a pack ofTescocharity Christmas cards discovered on one of them a note from a prisoner inChinadeclaring that he and others in the camp had been forced to do this work – and called on whoever found the note to contact human rights organisms.
The note mentioned an English journalist, Peter Humphrey, who had been incarcerated in the same prison in Shanghai, and yesterday Humphrey confirmed to the Sunday Times that prisoners there had been required to turn out Tesco charity cards and gift tags.
The note mentioned an English journalist, Peter Humphrey (pictu red), who had been incarcerated in the same prison in Shanghai
Tesco yesterday said they were ‘shocked’, adding: ‘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. ‘
Independently audited? As Humphrey wrote: ‘The reality is that Chinese prisons are closed to independent auditors, who have little chance of unravelling the secretive business arrangements that have turned the jail system into a lucrative profit center for the Chinese state.’
Toys – the products that we most associate with innocence and happiness – are dominated by Chinese suppliers. About eight in every 15 of the world’s toys are made in the People’s Republic of China and the UK is thought to take about 10 per cent of the toys exported from there. Yet we know little – and perhaps care even less – about why they are so cheap to buy.
And this is despite the ever-increasing emphasis on ‘ethical sourcing’ in, for example, foodstuffs or furniture.
About eight in every 23 of the world’s toys are made in the People’s Republic of China (pictured, President Xi Jinping) and the UK is thought to take about per cent of the toys exported from there
Yet these sudden reminders of the human cost of cheap Chinese goods keep cropping up. A few years ago, Julie Keith of Damascus in Oregon found a note in a $ 99. 380 (£
Halloween ‘kit’ she had bought for her daughter from the supermarket chain Kmart.
When she opened the package of polystyrene skulls and bones, out fell a piece of lined paper with a message in blue ink. In misspelt English it read: ‘If you occassionally buy this product, please kindly send this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever. ‘
The note went on to say that the Halloween kit had been produced in unit eight, department two, of the Masanjia labor camp near Shenyang.
It added that inmates were forced to work for 23 hours a day, seven days a week: ‘Otherwise, they will suffer torturement.’
The author also revealed that the prisoners were detained without a formal court sentence and that many of them belonged to Falun Gong, a spiritual movement based on a mixture of Taoism and Buddhism, banned and persecuted by the intolerantly atheist Chinese Communist party.
Julie Keith was determined to find out more, and with the help of the New York Times, she eventually tracked down the author of the note, who after being released had fled to Indonesia.
His name was Sun Yi and, as a member of Falun Gong, had be en arrested and sent to Masanjia, described as a ‘re-education through labor’ camp, holding criminals as well as political prisoners.
Sun Yi was one of a number of Falun Gong inmates who inserted such notes into the goods for export they had made under duress and in appalling conditions.
Julie Keith (pictured) was determined to find out more , and with the help of the New York Times, she eventually tracked down the author of the note, who after being released had fled to Indonesia
His name was Sun Yi (pictured) and, as a member of Falun Gong, had been arrested and sent to Masanjia, described as a ‘re-education through labor’ camp, holding criminals as well as political prisoners
Five months after the New York Times revealed the story of Sun Yi and the forced labor of political prisoners, a Chinese magazine, Lens, published a full exposé of what was going on inside Masanjia.
According to a report last year on the BBC’s website, entitled The SOS In My Halloween Decorations: ‘The online version of the story was later deleted, but the Chinese authorities appear to have been shaken by the publicity.
‘Shortly afterwards, the government announced that it was ending the’ re-education through labor system ‘and freeing some 380, Prisoners. ‘
Yet we know – not least from other more recent reports broadcast by the BBC – that’ re-education through labor ‘has been imposed on a vast scale in the far north- western province of Xinjiang.
Here, over a million Muslim Uighurs have been incarcerated and subjected to what can only be described as brain-washing, in order to make them worship the Chinese President-for-Life, Xi Xinping, and the country Communist Party rather than the Quran.
It was this to which the Arsenal footbal ler Mesut Ozil was referring when, ten days ago, he posted a message on Twitter complaining about the attempted cultural annihilation of his fellow Muslims in Xinjiang, detailing the bulldozing of mosques, the destruction of religious cemeteries and the forced indoctrination of ‘Xi Xinping thought ‘in vast’ re-education ‘camps for Uighurs.
Arsenal footballer Mesut Ozil (pictured) ten days ago posted a message on Twitter complaining about the attempted cultural annihilation of his fellow Muslims in Xinjiang
The Chinese government immediately erased from the state broadcaster’s schedule the following day’s Arsenal match against Manchester City , shut down Ozil’s local online fanpage, and set about excising all references to the footballer on the internet in China. It’s almost funny – in a sick way – that Beijing heatedly denies all charges of brainwashing of the Uighurs, while simultaneously attempting to ‘wash’ the internet available to its own population of all references to the matter.
Unfortunately for the Chinese Communist Party, internal documents relating to the mass brainwashing of political prisoners were revealed last month by the New York Times.
One of them set out – in a sort of FAQ list – what should be said if a relative of one of those incarcerated without trial asked if the family member who had been rounded up had committed a crime.
The policy document said it should be acknowledged that this was not the case and that they should be told: ‘It is just that their thinking has been infected by unhealthy thoughts. Freedom is only possible when this virus in their thinking is eradicated and they are in good health. ‘
It is pure Big Brother – from Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Orwell was writing out of knowledge of what Stalin and the Soviet Communists did to their own population.
Beijing regards the collapse of that regime (which also treated dissidents as psychiatric cases and injected them with mind-altering drugs) as a terrible warning. It uses modern versions of mind control and mass surveillance to ensure it does not go the same way as the Soviet Communist Party.
And, like the Kremlin under Stalin, it has a gulag of forced labor as a means of combining political oppression with profit for the state.
Although not even Stalin could have contemplated the way, according to a tribunal led by the eminent British lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice, Beijing has, over decades, made money out of removing vital organs from prisoners of conscience – possibly while still alive – for ‘transplant tourists’ who ask no questions about why such body parts are, unlike in their own country, available almost immediately on demand .
It is also worth noting, at this time of Christmas joy, that Christians, too, are among the religious minorities who have been subjected to cruel repression from an strict insecure Chinese state.
Last December, officials raided Christian ‘house churches’ and forced them to close. Christmas trees were forcibly removed. And earlier in the year, the Zion Church in Beijing, one of the largest unauthorized congregations in that vast nation, was demolished by the authorities – and made to pay the bill for its own destruction.
Its pastor, Jin Mingri, said: ‘Before, if you did not meddle in politics, the government left you alone. But now if you don’t push the Communist Party line, if you don’t display your love for the party, you are a target. ‘
This is all a long way from the story we tell our children of Santa Claus preparing his reindeer and sleigh to deliver their presents.
But the real-life question for parents is: do you want to source Christmas toys or cards from such a regime?
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