Chinese Labor Camp Worker Sends Plea For Help Hidden In Cheap Halloween Decorations

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Julie Keith got some decorative Halloween lights that came from Kmart but didn't open the package for a year. When she did, she found a letter purportedly from a worker in a forced labor camp in China asking for help. It is illegal for U.S. companies to sell products of forced labor and Keith turned the letter over to the Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for investigation. The Oregonian /Landov | Randy Rasmussen, The Oregonian / Landov

Messages for help don’t always come in bottles. Sometimes they come hidden in the packaging of cheap Halloween decorations.

Julie Keith of Damascus, Oregon was shocked to find a handwritten letter apparently from an inmate at a Chinese labor camp pleading for help when she opened a pack of year-old Halloween decorations from Kmart, The Oregonian reports.

“If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization,” the letter, which Keith posted to Facebook, begins. It goes on to detail the harsh working conditions at a labor camp in Shenyang, China, and the description matches those common to what are officially known as re-education through labor camps in China, Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told The Oregonian.

(Scroll down to see the letter in its entirety)

Kmart released a statement saying the company is looking into the matter, according to Fox News:

"Sears Holdings has a Global Compliance Program which helps to ensure that vendors and factories producing merchandise for our company adhere to specific Program Requirements, and all local laws pertaining to employment standards and workplace practices. Failure to comply with any of the Program Requirements, including the use of forced labor, may result in a loss of business or factory termination. We understand the seriousness of this allegation, and will continue to investigate."

Calls to abolish such camps have recently increased as inmates are often taken to the camps for minor offenses and held there without trial, the New York Times reports. And not just a few of them. “Petty thieves and prostitutes to drug abusers” count among the 190,000 people put into China’s labor camps in 2009 United Nations estimates, according to CNN.

Working conditions at Chinese factories in general have gained increased media scrutiny, in part thanks to actions taken by those working there. In October, thousands of workers at Foxconn, which makes products for Apple and Samsung, among others, went on strike over poor work conditions. In 2010, a series of worker suicides at Foxconn led to stricter compliance with Chinese labor laws at the factories.

(Hat tip: Raw Story)

Check out the letter Keith found in the Halloween decorations below:

chinese labor camp letter

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