Primark denies forced labour claims as more labels emerge

A Belfast shopper discovers another ‘cry for help’ message that says Chinese prisoners are being forced to produce Primark clothes

Earlier this week, a Primark shopper from Swansea discovered a "cry for help" label stitched into her £10 dress – but the incident might just be the tip of the iceberg. Another SOS message has been discovered by a Primark customer from Northern Ireland, this time containing a handwritten message of distress from China

The Belfast shopper, Karen Wisinska, said that she bought the pair of trousers from Primark in June 2011 but had stored the garment away without wearing it. She discovered the message when she retrieved it from a cupboard last week. Wisinska sent the note to Amnesty International, which translated the message:

"SOS! SOS! SOS! We are prisoners in the Xiang Nan prison of the Hubei province in China. Our job inside the prison is to produce fashion clothes for export. We work 15 hours per day and the food we eat wouldn't even be given to dogs or pigs. We work as hard as oxen in the field. We call on the international community to condemn the Chinese government for the violation of our human rights!" 

"I was shocked to find this note and card inside the trousers from Primark and even more shocked to discover that it appears to have been made under slave labour conditions in a Chinese prison," Wisinska told the Guardian. "I am only sorry that I did not discover the note when I first purchased the clothing – then I could have brought this scandal to light much earlier."

Primark has released a statement saying that it was "clear" the merchandise in these incidents were bought several years ago, and clarified that the trousers bought in Northern Ireland were last ordered in 2009. Since then, its "ethical standards team" has inspected the factory nine times and found no evidence of forced labour. 

"Despite growing suspicions in relation to the origin of the labels and the considerable time delay since the garments were bought, Primark knows its responsibilities to the workers in its supply chain and has already started detailed investigations," a spokesperson for Primark said.