Mom Finds Letter Penned by Chinese Labor Camp Employee in Decorations She Bought

Heartbreaking 11

china letter box
Letter was hidden in this type of box
It was the last thing 42-year-old mom Julie Keith expected to find when she opened a box of Halloween decorations: Stuffed between two styrofoam headstones was a letter, folded into eighths. Written in a combination of broken English and Chinese characters, the unsigned note told a horrifying story. It began:

Sir, If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution [sic] of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.

This product produced by Unit 8, Department 2, Mashanjla Labour Camp, Shen Young, Liaoning, China.

Keith, a charity worker who'd purchased the decorations a year earlier at Kmart, read on in horror:

People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday (or) Sunday break and any holidays, otherwise they will suffer torturement [sic], beat and rude remark, nearly no payment (10 Yuan/one month).

People who work here suffer punishment 1-3 years averagelly [sic], but without court sentence. Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners who are totally innocent people. Only because they have different believe [sic] to the CCPG, they often suffer more punishment than others.

10 Yuan per month is roughly equivalent to $1.61 per month in US dollars.

Keith posted the letter on Facebook, hoping to get some advice from friends about what to do. Finally she turned the letter and the box of decorations over to agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. According to Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, the letter coule be a hoax -- but it could just as easily be the real thing:

"I think it is fair to say the conditions described in the letter certainly conform to what we know about conditions in re-education through labor camps," she says. In case you didn't know (I didn't), China's "re-education through labor" is a "system of punishment that allows for detention without trial."

Wow. Sears Holdings Corporation, which owns Kmart, is currently investigating the matter, as the terms of their Global Compliance Program forbid forced labor. But whatever happens, whether this letter is real or a hoax or what, it's worth thinking about: These labor camps DO exist, and a huge percentage of the products we buy on a daily basis are made at the expense of those workers. All to save a few bucks. But are we really? Especially considering the current unemployment rate? The reality isn't pleasant, but we can't afford to ignore it any longer.

Do you ever think about where the things you buy are produced and whether the workers are suffering?



Image via ebay

economy, human rights, in the news


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

miche... micheledo

As a child, my parents refused to buy things made in China for this very reason. I used to try to pay attention, but it is now almost impossible to avoid 'made in China' products. :(

hello... hellokd87

My mother in law despises buying any produce on sale if it's from a "foreign farm" because her father used to work on an avocado farm in Mexico and  they didn't offer benefits, they worked from sun up to sun down and had next to no holidays off. It's rough for these people, and unfortunately it's one of the only choices they have.

cmjaz cmjaz

Considering it had the gentleman's unit and dept number, I hope they are all okay

LoveM... LoveMyKBabies

The only thing I wonder is what the U.S. can really do about it, besides refusing to buy products from China. We really don't want another "Iraq" in China do we?


I not buying the legitimacy of this note.

nonmember avatar BobbyWong

This note is fake for the following reasons:

- The paper it's written on is from a workbook common for Chinese schools in US but not Chinese gulag jail (bottom is printed "Score", "Parent Signature.)
- English is too good, despite of attempts to hide it (Chinese people don't use colloquial like "totally".)
- It's full of Falun Gong speak, which is a huge red flag.

doodledo doodledo

Buying products made in the US wont stop human rights abuses in China but we try to do it anyway for several reasons. Even if the note is fake I have no doubt that it could represent a reslity that does exist.

lalab... lalaboosh

I always think about the slave laborers who make most of the stuff bought in America. I avoid buying it if I can. Making Halloween decorations is more fun anyway.

paige... paige8608

Despit the fact that the letter may or may not be real, it does not negate the fact that this is a reality for a lot of, if not all, of the factory workers. I watched a documentary on the workers who make products for Wal-Mart. It was sad. Many of them live in dorms run by the corporations & their rent & utilities are automatically deducted from their checks. They have no kind of life. They have very poor working conditions. But I think some of them choose to do it. This one young woman left her home to work in a Wal Mart factory, when she could be at home with her mom who was more than willing to take care of her. It's sad to see people living & working like that.

nonmember avatar marc

i can't imagine a person of low education writing such a letter. and as well as i can't imagine a highly educated English speaker working in such poor conditions. this may be a hoax.

1-10 of 11 comments 12 Last