A taiwanese print company has denied allegations that it forced prisoners to pack Christmas cards that were sold by british retailer Tesco ( TSCDF ).
The claims foremost came to light when The Sunday Times reported that six-year-old Florence Widdicombe, who lives in south London, opened a box of Tesco charity Christmas cards and discovered a desperate message inside one of them .
“ We are alien prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China, ” the message read. “ Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify [ a ] human rights administration. ”
Tesco responded swiftly, saying in a statement Sunday that it had suspended production at a chinese factory following the allegations .
On Monday, Zhejiang Yunguang Printing, a taiwanese firm that supplies greeting cards to Tesco, pushed back powerfully against any suggestion that it used forced parturiency, saying it was “ investigating whether those cards were printed by us. ”
“ We have never been involved in such activities that the media reported, ” a example for the party said when reached by CNN by earphone. “ We think person is smearing us. The only thing I can tell you is that we don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate have labor from Shanghai Qingpu prison, so you should ask Qingpu prison what ’ randomness precisely going on and why their workers would write such notes. ”
The representative declined to share his or her name or position with the caller .
The wag had urged the recipient role to “ reach Mr Peter Humphrey ” — a early british diarist who spent two years in chinese prisons, including Qingpu. Widdicombe ’ s father contacted Humphrey, who reported the floor for The Sunday Times.
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Humphrey wrote that he contacted several members of an “ informal network of ex-prisoners, ” who told him that inmates in the alien prisoners unit are being forced into “ mundane manual assembly or packaging tasks. ”
Another ex-prisoner who now lives in the United Kingdom told Humphrey that prisoners had been packaging Christmas cards and endow tags for Tesco for at least two years. Humphrey himself, who said he was jailed on “ bogus charges ” for his study as a corporate fraud detective, said that during his fourth dimension in Qingpu prison he had seen “ product tags with the names of other high street brands. ”
chinese officials besides addressed the newspaper report. On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accused Humphrey of fabricating the article, and said no foreigner has been put into forced british labour party at that finical prison .
Humphrey told CNN on Monday that China ’ s denial was “ predictable ” and followed a pattern seen whenever an issue of human rights was raised. He besides defended his article for The Sunday Times .
“ When I saw [ the message ], I immediately knew it was absolutely genuine and fitted with everything I knew about the prison and the labor there, ” he said .
CNN has besides contacted The Sunday Times and the Shanghai Prison Administration, which oversees the Qingpu prison, for comment .
“ We abhor the use of prison department of labor and would never allow it in our provision chain, ” a spokesperson for Tesco said in a statement.
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“ We were shocked by these allegations and immediately suspended the factory where these cards are produced and launched an probe. We have besides withdrawn these cards from sale whilst we investigate, ” they added .
Tesco said the supplier was discipline to an mugwump audit concluding calendar month, and no tell was found to suggest a breach of its rules banning the habit of prison british labour party .
— CNN ’ s Amy Woodyatt, David Culver, Duarte Mendonca and Rosanne Roobeek contributed to this report .