The Forced Labour behind Christmas Cards

A family recently found a plea for help in a ‘charity’ Christmas Card from Tesco. The message read “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation.”

The Christmas Card in which the plea for help was found!

According to this Sky News report, the message requested that whoever read it contact a British journalist, Peter Humphrey who had himself been incarcerated in the same prison (on false charges), and forced to make Christmas related products for various other big name high street companies. The family contacted Humphrey, who validated the message.

This is at least the third time that someone has found a similar message in products made in Chinese prisons.

Relevance to A-level sociology

  • Firstly, this is a good example of negative globalisation – where the most oppressed people in one of the most oppressive nations on earth suffer at the end of a global supply chain which delivers consumers in the UK cheap products, in this case Christmas cards.
  • Secondly, it’s a good example of Corporations engaging in what Matza might call the ‘denial of responsibility’ – even though they benefit from the cheap (/free) labour of Chinese prisoners, they can deny responsibility because the supply chain is so large they claim they can’t check every case of human rights abuses which goes on along it. It’s a case of out of site, out of mind.
  • Finally, it’s another reminder of the fact that that China is a human rights abuser and a state criminal actor.

Final thoughts

If you want an ethical Christmas, I recommend you don’t celebrate it – do what I do and just start your New Year’s detox early instead!

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