U.K.based grocery giant Tesco-Lotus has halted production at a factory in China after it discovered the factory used forced labor. The forced labour was apparently used to produce charity Christmas cards for Tesco.
Tesco said it has launched an investigation of the Chinese supplier of holiday cards. China’s Zheijiang Yunguang Printings, labor practices were called into question by the Sunday Times.
The Sunday Times said the cards came to light when a 6-year-old girl in south London found a card in her box already had a message written inside.
Shanghai Qinqpu prison China
It read: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison China. We are forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.”
The writer asked whoever received the note to contact Peter Humphrey, a former British journalist. Peter was detained in China while working as a corporate investigator. He also spent time at the same Shanghai prison.
The London girl’s father, Ben Widdicombe, said Sunday they at first thought the message was a “prank.”
“On reflection, we realized it was actually potentially quite a serious thing,” Widdicombe said. “So I felt very shocked, but also a responsibility to pass it on to Peter Humphrey as the author asked me to do.”
He said the message was eye opening: “It hits home there are injustices in the world and difficult situations. Especially that we know about and read about each and every day.”
Tesco said it was “shocked” by the discovery
Widdicombe said finding the message shortly before Christmas was saddening. Consequently he told his daughter, Florence, what it might mean.
“We explained that the person who wrote it was a prisoner in China. and that the person felt the prison guards were being mean, making them do work, they felt really sad,” the father said.
Humphrey told the BBC he thinks he knows who wrote the message. He also said he won’t identify the person for fear the inmate would face retribution.
Humphrey said he was “pretty sure” it was put inside the card by a prisoners as a request for help.
Tesco said it was “shocked” by the discovery and would never allow prison labor in its supply chain.
The company says it also donates 300,000 pounds ($390,000) annually to the British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; and Diabetes UK from the sale of its Christmas cards.
The Associated Press