Mysterious letter sparks curiosity, investigations
An Oregon woman says she found a note pleading for help in a box of Halloween novelties. The discovery is getting attention from federal authorities.
It sounds like something out of a thriller novel -- and it still hasn't been verified. But a letter recently found in a box of Chinese-made Halloween decorations has sparked investigations into whether some products imported from the People's Republic are -- against U.S. laws -- being made under forced labor.
Earlier this month, the Oregonian reported the story of the discovery by Julie Keith, who works at a Goodwill facility in Portland, Ore. For years, a brand-new "Totally Ghoul" graveyard kit from Kmart had sat in her garage, and when she finally opened it in October, she found a note written in choppy English.
"Sir," the letter began, "if you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization."
The unsigned letter, which also has notes in Chinese characters, outlined the alleged abuse of workers at the Manshanjia Labor Camp in the northeastern Liaoning Province. (You can see the letter here.)
"People who work here have to work 15 hours a day," the note continues, "with out Saturday Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise they will suffer torturement beat and rude remark." The note also says workers at the camp make about 10 Chinese Yuan -- or about $1.60 U.S. – a month.
Unsure of where to turn, Keith published the letter on Facebook and asked for comment. Some people questioned whether the letter was real -- but it has nonetheless made an impact.
U.S. law prohibits the importation of any good, wares, article or merchandise "mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in any foreign country by convict labor or/and forced labor or/and indentured labor."
"We're in no position to confirm the veracity or origin of this," Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told The Oregonian. "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."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is also looking into the letter, as is Sears Holdings Corporation (SHLD), which operates Kmart.
"Sears Holdings has a Global Compliance Program which helps to ensure that vendors and factories producing merchandise for our company adhere to specific Program Requirements, and all local laws pertaining to employment standards and workplace practices," the company told The Oregonian.
"Failure to comply with any of the Program Requirements, including the use of forced labor, may result in a loss of business or factory termination. We understand the seriousness of this allegation, and will continue to investigate."
Meanwhile, the New York-based NTD Television network -- which says its mission is to "bring truthful and uncensored information into and out of China," ran a news report featuring comments from what it said were former detainees at the Masanjia labor camp -- corroborating the abuse claims made in the letter.
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Did all of the readers forget which president opened the free trade agreement with China without any stipulations and another president who simply ignores the laws of the United States like the current President Obama? It was President Clinton, who ignored the U.S. law in the article:
“ prohibits the importation of any good, wares, article or merchandise "mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in any foreign country by convict labor or/and forced labor or/and indentured labor."”
This is ridiculous!! If this letter is for real and not some hoax, this needs to stop! We have way too many greedy politicians, investors, lobbyists, corporations, union workers and employees who are constantly demanding more and more instead of being content with what they have. The greed needs to end at every level so we can bring jobs back to the US.
The only way these thing will stop is we boycott all the good from china. Hit them where it hurts most. But no it will not happen because we want everything cheap and the give you that. I do not buy anything made in china ever if mean I go without.
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