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“We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.”
That was a message found inside of a Tesco Christmas card. It was discovered by a six-year-old girl in London, England according to the Sunday Times.
The card was purchased from a local Tesco by Florence Widdicombe’s mom so that Florence could give them out to her classmates.
“We didn’t open (the cards) on the day that we got them, we opened them about a week ago,” Florence said.
“We were writing in them. About on my sixth or eighth card, somebody had already written in it.”
Florence’s mother decided to reach out to human rights organizations as well as former reporter Peter Humphrey.
Humphrey has spent years imprisoned in Qinpu at the same facility for breaking Chinese privacy laws. The BBC reported that the packing of Christmas cards has been forced upon inmates for two years and Humphrey concurred.
Tesco said they were shocked to learn the nature of which their cards were being produced and has immediately halted operations with Zhejiang Yunguang Printing, the China based company.
Humphrey told the BBC that “The foreigners cellblock in Qingpu prison had about 150 foreign prisoners when I was there,” he continued, “Today, it has about 250. These prisoners are living a very bleak daily life.”
In describing the conditions he lived under during his time imprisoned at the facility Humprhey said that prisoners were placed 12 at a time in grey cells. Each with an iron bed with a mattress that was no more than an inch thick. There was no heating through the winter and conditions got extremely cold.
Inmates are expected to follow “highly regimented” work programs and over the past year, the manual labour has become mandatory, working for pennies on the dollar. What money they can earn overtime is used to buy basic hygiene necessities such as soap.
An audit conducted in November of Zhejiang Yunguang Printing concluded that there were no signs of forced labour involved in their manufacturing process, Tesco said.
“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 labour,” said a Tesco spokesperson. “If evidence is found we will permanently delist the supplier.”